2018 British Open: Tiger Woods fires electric Saturday 66 to rocket near lead

Ian Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

2018 British Open: Tiger Woods fires electric Saturday 66 to rocket near lead

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2018 British Open: Tiger Woods fires electric Saturday 66 to rocket near lead

UPDATE (2:57 p.m. ET): The lead groups did continue to take advantage of Carnoustie, and Woods will enter the final round four back.

He is T-6 heading into Sunday.

• • •

Tiger Woods’ bid for his first major title in 10 years is alive and well after an electric Saturday.

Woods torched a friendly Carnoustie in the third round of the British Open, birdieing six of his first 14 holes – tying the lead at one point – and firing a 5-under 66 to rocket up the leaderboard.

When he reached the clubhouse, Woods was two off the lead as he sat at 5 under overall and in a tie for fifth. With the lead groups having several holes to play on a gettable layout, that margin could easily grow by day’s end.

Regardless, Woods put himself in position heading into Sunday. (And oh by the way, that 66 was his lowest round in a major since the second round of the 2011 Masters.)

His day appeared it would start with a buzzkill, as Woods missed the opening green and chipped 15 feet short. But he proceeded to drain the putt for a clutch par.

Disappointment ensued at the second when he misread an 8-footer for birdie and missed an early opportunity. Two holes later, though, he calmly drained a 6-footer for his first birdie of the day.

Woods followed up by finding the green in two at the par-5 sixth. His 80-foot first putt came up 6 feet short and he knocked in the remainder for a second birdie.

His front nine came to a close with Woods ramming in a 40-footer for birdie at the ninth to go out in 3-under 33 and jolt his round.

Now three back, that birdie proved to provide just the electricity he needed.

Woods proceeded to stuff a 9-iron from 140 yards to a foot at the 10th to move 4 under on the round. He nearly drove the 386-yard par-4 11th with driver, putted from just off the green within four feet and drained the putt for a third straight birdie to move to 5 under.

He was suddenly one back.

Three holes later, he set the golf world on fire when he hit the par-5 14th in two and two-putted for birdie.

With that, he had moved 6 under for the round (and tournament) and was TIED FOR THE LEAD. Boy did that create some excitement.

Of course, now the challenge was dealing with a brutal four-hole closing stretch.

Woods made a tough bogey at the 16th when his tee shot appeared it would get atop a slope and finish 20 feet from the cup only to roll back off it and down to the right of the green.

His putt back up a slope came up 6 feet short, and he missed that comebacker for a demoralizing bogey.

Woods then nearly hit his tee shot with a driving iron into the burn at the 18th. The low pull-hook landed inches right of the burn and somehow kicked right for an incredibly lucky break that left the 42-year-old on dry land.

He was still forced to wedge out from thick rough, though, and left himself about 85 yards for his third shot. Woods then fashioned a beauty of wedge to within 4 feet and drained the putt for a sporty 66.

That’s a great round, of course. Where will it leave him at day’s end?

We’re not sure where exactly yet. But unless someone runs away on Saturday, Woods is right in this championship with 18 holes to play.

Some notes on his round: We know Woods is a master strategist and he astutely figured out that he had to get significantly more aggressive off the tee at a defenseless Carnoustie on Saturday.

There were a half-dozen drivers and one 3-wood off the tee in the third round, significantly more than in previous rounds. That’s still not especially aggressive compared to the field average, but Woods did for sure make the correct adjustment on a day where he just couldn’t iron it to death.

Despite a rickety driver when he used it sparingly in the opening two rounds, the big stick did him well in the third round. None of the six got him in trouble, and you could say five were really solid shots. Really his only poor drive of the day was his lucky iron miss at the 18th, and he hit 12/15 fairways on the day.

Woods appeared pretty dialed in on the approaches, too, as the only one he really missed was his opening one. He didn’t get too many that close to the hole, but he did knock a few tight and did a great job of putting himself in good positions when he didn’t.

He wasn’t tested much around the greens on Saturday, as Woods hit 14/18 greens. In the few instances he was off the surfaces, he mainly putted and showed great touch.

His putter had a good but not spectacular day. Woods missed a pair inside 10 feet but made that 15-footer at the first and that bomb at the ninth. A few other short putts did fall. There were a few other long putts that Woods missed by fractions.

Overall, this Tiger was much sharper than the one we saw the first two days. And he has a chance at this first major in 10 years (and fourth Open Championship title) and first win in five.

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