With an elite field chasing the lead, Tiger Woods decided to play keep-away.
Already up by a staggering seven shots through 36 holes thanks to a career-tying best of 61 in the second round, Woods shot a solid 2-under-par 68 on Saturday in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational to maintain that same seven-stroke lead in Akron, Ohio.
It was as if he was turning around and daring the world’s best players to come after him. No one really could.
‘‘You know, today was a day that I didn’t quite have it,’’ said Woods, who was at 15-under 195. ‘‘But I scored. And that’s the name of the game, posting a number, and I did today. I grinded my way around that golf course.’’
Now he’s only 18 holes away from making even more history in a career of historic accomplishments. He'll be competing against the record book as much as the elite field.
‘‘It’s kind of tough to pick up seven or eight shots on Tiger around here,’’ said Henrik Stenson, a distant second after a 67. ‘‘It would take something spectacular on my behalf or any of the other guys around me, and obviously a very, very poor round for him.’’
Woods, by the way, is 41-2 when leading after 54 holes in a PGA Tour event.
A victory would be his eighth at Firestone Country Club and in the Bridgestone and its forerunner, the NEC Invitational. That would match the tour-record eight he already has at Bay Hill and the eight wins Sam Snead had at the Greater Greensboro Open.
Woods also could capture his 79th victory on the PGA Tour, drawing him within three of Snead’s record of 82.
‘‘I'll just go out there and execute my game plan,’’ he said. ‘‘It all starts with what the weather is doing, and then I build it from there. We’ll see what I do tomorrow.’’
Unlike in a second-round 61 that could easily have been a 59 or even lower, Woods didn’t recover from all of his errant shots. He bogeyed the ninth, 14th, and 16th holes, failing to bounce back from wayward shots.
Yet he still was good enough to put himself in position for yet another lopsided victory, one that will likely mark him as the player to beat next week in the PGA Championship.
‘‘Any time you can go into a major tournament or any tournament with a win under your belt, it’s nice,’’ Woods said. ‘‘It validates what you’re working on and you have some nice momentum going in there.’’
Woods began the third round with a seven-shot lead after rounds of 66 and 61 — the fourth time he has gone that low.
Jason Dufner was third, eight strokes back after a 67, and Luke Donald (68), Bill Haas (69), and Chris Wood (70) followed at 6 under.
Defending champ Keegan Bradley, with a 71, was another shot back along with Miguel Angel Jimenez, who put up a 65. Rounding out the top 10 were 2011 Bridgestone winner and reigning Masters champ Adam Scott, and Zach Johnson.
LPGA — The third round of the Women’s British Open at St. Andrews, Scotland, was suspended by wind gusts that topped 40 miles per hour and kept golf balls from staying put on the greens. After waiting six hours for the wind to calm, players were told to return Sunday morning for a marathon finish.
Whether that becomes a huge break for the leaders — Na Yeon Choi at 10-under 134 was an hour away from teeing off — won’t be known until Sunday.
Inbee Park is trying to become the first golfer, male or female, to win four straight professional majors in the same season. Her hope was for a steady round in raging wind and for the leading players to lose ground. Park was 1 under through four holes, making a 30-foot birdie putt at No. 3.
PGA — Gary Woodland holed out from a greenside bunker for eagle and hit an approach shot from the fairway to 2 inches for one of his six birdies to take the third-round lead in the Reno-Tahoe Open with 37 points in the modified Stableford scoring system.
Brandon Steele is in second place with 30 points. He played the last six holes in 7 under.
Champions — Tom Pernice Jr. moved into position for his second tour title, shooting a 7-under 65 to take a two-stroke lead over Tom Kite (65) in the 3M Championship in Blaine, Minn.
Pernice had a 13-under 131 total at TPC Twin Cities.