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Woods maintains share of the lead at Tour Championship

23 September, 2018, 20:41 | Author: Lora Ball
  • McIlroy believes his decision to miss The Northern Trust was justified

Tiger Woods made a hot start on his way to a three-stroke lead over Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy after the third round at the Tour Championship in Atlanta on Saturday. This is Woods' first 54-hole lead since his five-win season of 2013.

Woods posted a 12-under 198 total, while Englishman Rose recovered from a bogey, bogey start to card a 68. He has flirted with victory this year, surging late to finish second at last month's PGA Championship and posting three other top-sixes since the start of July, but never before has he been so within reach of ending his hard, complicated drought. "But if I go out and I play similar tomorrow like I did today, I'll have no complaints", he said. In March he finished runner-up at the Valspar Championship, showing glimpses of his old self that had been lost in the past few years as he dealt with back injuries. Between a strong showing in the last two majors of the season and a small field at East Lake - meaning Woods doesn't have to fend off as much competition down the stretch - he's in good shape. "I felt like I could free-wheel it, and they went in".

At one stage he led by five from Rose but he dropped another shot after failing to chip up a slope to the 16th green. A four-time major victor, McIlroy, 29, has played with Woods just once in a final round, back at the 2012 Masters when both were well out of contention.

He holed another lengthy putt on the fourth while his birdies on the sixth and seventh came after impressive shots out of bunkers.

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"For the most part, I did that". He gave one stroke back with a bogey on No. 9, then played an even back-nine with a birdie on No. 12, a bogey on No. 16 and pars the rest of the way.

'It's the flawless place for me to open my campaign, ' he said in January, 'but the landscape has shifted dramatically.

"Simple math says that if I play a clean card, that guys behind me have to shoot 67 to force into extra, " he said. "It's exciting for people to get a look at him back at his best and it will be fun to be play with him". He was hitting good shots and making the conversion putts.

And so now the tournament heads to Sunday with a familiar focus, all eyes and hopes and narratives trained tightly on Woods and his crimson shirt.

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"This course, the way it's playing right now, you've got to be so patient, " Woods said.

Justin Rose, who played with Woods on Saturday, is ranked No. 1 in the world for a reason.

Rose has wider reason to keep Woods within view. Less than a year ago, he wasn't sure he'd even be playing golf again professionally at all, and now he's facing down the best of the next generation the same way he throttled the two previous ones.

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