Woods opens up three-shot lead over Rose and McIlroy in Atlanta

14-time Major winner looking to win first title since 2013 in the Tour Championship

 Tiger Woods  walks to the fourth tee during the third round of the Tour Championship  at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

Tiger Woods walks to the fourth tee during the third round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

 

Tiger Woods stood on the brink of his first title triumph since 2013 after opening a three-shot lead over Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy in the third round of the Tour Championship in Atlanta on Saturday.

Woods made a blistering start amid scenes reminiscent of his halcyon days, notching six birdies in the first seven holes after starting the day tied for the halfway lead with world number one Rose at East Lake.

The 14-times Major champion cooled off on the back nine but a five-under-par 65 put him in prime position to record his 80th PGA Tour victory, a first since the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August, 2013.

Woods posted a 12-under 198 total while Englishman Rose recovered from a bogey, bogey start to card a 68.

Northern Irishman McIlroy birdied the par-five 18th for a 66 to earn a date with Woods in the final pairing for Sunday’s fourth round.

Woods has 79 PGA Tour victories, three short of the record held by Sam Snead.

He has never lost after starting the final round with a lead of at least three shots, but is likely to be tested on Sunday by two heavyweights who both have the ability to deliver a knockout punch.

“I’ve got my work cut out tomorrow,” Woods said, while also expressing confidence about his game.

“I feel good about it. I’ve been playing well throughout the entire summer, just piecing it together, building, building and building.

“Finally I’ve come to a point where I’ve got control of the lead.”

He led by five strokes late in the third round, but showed a hint of fragility by fluffing a pitch shot at the 16th hole, where he failed to carry his ball up the slope.

But with a double-bogey looming, he regrouped to hit his next delicate shot stone dead for a tap-in bogey, before Rose sank an eight-foot birdie to cut the gap to three.

McIlroy, meanwhile, birdied the 16th and 18th holes to join the fray, setting up the prospect of a Sunday to remember ahead of the Ryder Cup.

LEADERBOARD
(USA unless stated, par 70)

198 Tiger Woods 65 68 65

201 Rory McIlroy (N Irl) 67 68 66, Justin Rose (Eng) 66 67 68

204 Kyle Stanley 69 68 67, Jon Rahm (Esp) 68 68 68

205 Tony Finau 67 71 67, Paul Casey (Eng) 68 71 66, Billy Horschel 71 65 69

206 Dustin Johnson 69 70 67, Justin Thomas 67 69 70, Xander Schauffele 68 70 68, Aaron Wise 70 69 67, Gary Woodland 66 72 68

207 Webb Simpson 69 70 68

208 Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 69 69 70

209 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 72 66 71

210 Jason Day (Aus) 68 73 69, Marc Leishman (Aus) 73 69 68, Patton Kizzire 71 71 68, Rickie Fowler 65 72 73

212 Kevin Na 72 68 72, Cameron Smith (Aus) 70 73 69, Bryson DeChambeau 71 75 66, Patrick Cantlay 71 65 76

214 Francesco Molinari (Ita) 70 75 69, Brooks Koepka 69 78 67

215 Keegan Bradley 73 73 69, Bubba Watson 70 72 73

218 Patrick Reed 72 74 72

221 Phil Mickelson 73 72 76

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