INZAI CITY – Tiger Woods is on the brink of making golf history.
The Masters champion held a three-stroke lead over local favorite Hideki Matsuyama after 11 holes in the fourth round of the Zozo Championship on Sunday.
Woods, who has led from the opening round of the PGA Tour's first tournament in Japan, carded three birdies against a lone bogey when the fourth round was suspended due to darkness. Combined with the third round he played earlier, Woods played a total of 29 holes on Sunday.
Play will re-start at 7:30 a.m. local time on Monday.
"Today has been a long day in the saddle, so early wake-up call tomorrow and back at it again," Woods said. "I'm gonna try to win, there is no doubt about that. I have a job to do tomorrow, start off from the 12th hole, it's not one of the easiest of holes so right out of the gate I've got one of the hardest holes on the golf course."
Woods is making his first start in his 23rd season on the PGA Tour. If he can hold onto his lead through the remaining seven holes on Monday, he will reach 82 wins and tie the career record held by Sam Snead.
Woods had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee two months ago — his fifth on the same problem joint.
And he admitted that playing 29 on Sunday was a challenge, compared to the last time he played more than 18 holes when he used a cart.
"(It's) a little bit different when you have to walk out here and squat up and down to read putts, all the little things that go into playing tournament golf."
Matsuyama made things interesting when he finished with back-to-back birdies on Nos. 11 and 12. Before that he was five strokes back which would have put him in a difficult position on Monday.
"Three strokes behind right now," Matsuyama said. "I have a lot of ground to make up tomorrow. I need to play well to even have a chance, but I will give it a shot and do my best."
Matsuyama started the fourth round at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club course three strokes back of Woods after completion of the third round earlier Sunday when Woods shot 4-under 66. In the fourth round, the Japanese star faltered with two bogeys on the front nine but made up for it with his two birdies on his final two holes.
Woods got off to a strong start to the fourth round with a birdie on the first hole.
His only trouble of the day came when his tee shot on the par-4 No. 4 went into the rough. His third shot was a routine chip shot from the side of the green that was short, barely reaching the green. He then two-putted for his only bogey of the fourth round.
Woods came right back with a birdie on the next hole and added another on the sixth.
Torrential rain washed out play on Friday prompting the second round to be moved to Saturday. To make up for the lost day, the players started the fourth round immediately after finishing the third to get in as many holes as possible.
Gary Woodland was tied in third place at 12-under with Sungjae Im, while Rory McIlroy, the highest-ranked player in the field, was fifth at 11 under with just two holes to play.
"Didn't play great," said Woodland, who had a birdie and a bogey in the fourth round. "Hit it okay, didn't make any putts. You know, it was unfortunate, I guess. Luckily, I got seven holes tomorrow. Coming out, hoping to make some putts."
McIlroy shot a 63 in the third with an eagle on the final hole and looked like he might challenge Woods but a fourth round through 16 that included a bogey and just two birdies wasn't enough.
"Obviously nice to finish the way I did with a chip in at the last for eagle," McIlroy said. "Obviously had momentum going into the final round. Played pretty well, but the setup of the golf course this afternoon was really tough."
Woods last played in an official tournament in Japan in 2006 at the Dunlop Phoenix, where he lost in a playoff to Padraig Harrington. He won the Dunlop Phoenix the two previous years.