Stanley builds on lead at Farmers

SAN DIEGO — Hang gliders were taking off from the cliffs behind the 13th tee at Torrey Pines where Kyle Stanley was waiting to tee off on the 524-yard hole. Then, the 24-year-old launched a shot that was just as majestic.

"Wait 'til to you see where this one went," caddie Brett Waldman said.

On another clear day along the Pacific coast, it was hard not to notice.

In a familiar performance — even if the name might not be all that familiar now — Stanley overpowered the South Course on Saturday on his way to a 4-under 68 that gave him a five-shot lead going into the final round at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"For some reason, I've always been long," said Stanley, who has a slight but athletic build and generates enormous speed. "But if you take a golf course like this where you're hitting 7-irons into par 5s and short irons into long par 4s, it definitely helps."

It never hurt Tiger Woods, a seven-time winner as a pro at Torrey Pines.

Stanley chose to lay up on the par-5 18th with the large pond in front, and spun a wedge near the hole to about 4 feet. About his only regret in the third round was missing that putt. One last birdie would have broken the 54-hole tournament record that Woods set in 1998, before Rees Jones beefed up the South Course to 7,698 yards for the 2008 U.S. Open.

Stanley grew up outside Seattle when Woods ruled the sport. All through his school, he kept a poster of Woods over his bed.

"I think he's definitely influenced me, and a lot of other people, too," Stanley said.

He gladly settled for a spot alongside Woods in the record book at 18-under 198, and a five-shot lead over John Huh and John Rollins as he goes after his first PGA Tour title.

Stanley can't recall ever having a lead this large, which can be troublesome if looked upon as only an opportunity to fail.

"I think the biggest thing is you can't necessarily go out there and try to protect it," Stanley said. "You've got to really just keep doing what got you to this point. I'm not going to be any more conservative tomorrow. I'll stick to my game plan off the tee, and hopefully just continue to give myself a lot of chances."

He hit driver on all but three holes, and four of them traveled at least 320 yards, a big number considering Torrey Pines is just a cliff over sea level and even in pleasant weather, the ball doesn't go quite as far as summer in Ohio.

Big numbers are nothing new for Stanley, however.

He recalls coming down to the Titleist Performance Institute when he was a 17-year-old in his senior year in high school. His ball speed was measured at 184 mph.

"Now, I can't get it above 176," he said.

It wasn't just the big drives. Stanley showed exquisite control of his irons, especially his distance, and he has been working overtime the last few years on dialing in his wedges from inside 120 yards.

Even so, he refused to look ahead to today and what a win might mean — a trip to the Masters, perhaps a spot in the World Golf Championships, a two-year exemption.

No one was giving him the trophy, either.

"If a guy had a 10- or 12-shot lead, you'd feel pretty comfortable," Rollins said after his 68. "But when you're four or five shots, sometimes it's hard to play with a big lead because you get kind of relaxed and everything else."

Rollins should know. He had a three-shot lead with five holes to play in 2009, losing to Nick Watney.

Still, Stanley, the former All-American from Clemson aspires to play boring golf and not look too far ahead.

His lone bogey came on the 12th, when he went just over the green, chipped to 6 feet and missed the putt. Then came the big blast on the 13th — "As good as I can possibly hit it," he said — that left him a soft 7-iron to 15 feet on the fringe below the hole for an easy birdie.

"Are you playing this as a par 4?" Sang-Moon Bae turned and said to him with a smile.

Abu Dhabi Golf Championship

At Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Tiger Woods put himself in position to win his second straight tournament, and this one would leave little doubt about which direction his game is going.

He finally won two months ago against an 18-man field in California.

On Saturday, against the strongest field golf has seen in at least three months, Woods shot a 6-under 66 for a share of the lead with Robert Rock going into the final round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

Woods has a 55-8 record worldwide when he has at least a share of the lead going into the final round, and a win would be the first time since August 2009 that he has won consecutive starts.

There wasn't a lot of fist-pumping from Woods, who traded drama for consistency, racking up six birdies in a bogey-free round. It was a memorable performance by the American, mostly for his ability to hit fairways, tame the par 5s and sink clutch putts — including a 6-footer for birdie on the final hole.

Woods finished at 11-under 205. Rock, ranked at No. 117 in the world, birdied his final two holes for a 66 to join Woods in the last group along with Peter Hanson, who had a 64 and was two shots behind the lead.

Also two back at 9-under 207 were Rory McIlroy, who played with Woods for the third straight day and had a 68, Francesco Molinari (66) and Paul Lawrie (68).

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