Woods closes in on Mickelson's lead

 

Tiger Woods fired a flawless nine-under par 63 to move within two strokes of leader Phil Mickelson at the Doral Open, setting up a mouth-watering showdown to decide a title and the number one ranking.

A controversial pairing at last year's Ryder Cup, Woods and Mickelson failed to spark the U.S. but the two Americans could produce plenty of fireworks at Miami's Doral Resort tonight where more than a title will be on the line.

On the back of successive wins in Phoenix and Pebble Beach, Mickelson began last night with a two-shot lead over Billy Andrade and a five stroke advantage on Woods.

He needed his overnight advantage to hold off Woods, who scorched the Blue Monster for birdies on eight of his final 12 holes to rocket up the leaderboard and sit two shots back at 18-under 198.

"I played really well today," beamed Woods, adding that he had promised his father he would shoot the low round for him on his birthday. "It looks like I'm going to have to shoot another low one tomorrow.
   
"Phil is playing great golf, since the end of last year he's been playing some beautiful golf, so I'm going to have to go out there and shoot a nice solid number."

Woods's charge overshadowed another solid afternoon from Mickelson, who shot a six-under 66 to sit at 20-under 196.

 It marked the 10th consecutive round that the US Masters champion has owned or shared the lead in a stroke play event.

Woods and Mickelson thrilled their huge galleries as they duelled over the final nine holes on a sunny Saturday, separating themselves from the rest of the field.

Defending champion Craig Parry of Australia leads a group of three six shots back at 14-under, while world number one Vijay Singh sits one stroke further adrift with Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal and American Jim Furyk after a four-under 68.

A win today will return Woods to the top of the rankings as would a second place finish with Singh finishing outside the top five. He will also secure the top spot if he ties for second and Singh places worst than 23rd.

Ireland's Padraig Harrington is well off the pace.  The Dubiner carded a third round one over par 73 and is 16 shots off Mickelson's lead.

Reuters