Woods Back in Focus for Field


ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- It might be too early to engrave Tiger Woods' name in the claret jug for winning the British Open.
Several big name players chased down the No. 1 player in the world on Saturday and his four-shot edge heading into the third round was cut in half.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods opened the door for several others by shooting 1-under 71 on Saturday.
Woods closed his third round in style as he lagged a nearly 90-foot eagle try to tap-in range on the 18th hole. That allowed him to shoot a one-under 71 and finish 54 holes at 12-under-par 204 at the Old Course at St. Andrews.
Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, who got into the field because fellow countryman Seve Ballesteros withdrew, carded a four-under 68 on Saturday and is alone in second place at minus-10.
Colin Montgomerie, who played in the last group with Woods on Saturday, ran home a 20-footer for birdie at the last to shoot a two-under 70. He is tied for third with two-time U.S. Open champion, Retief Goosen, who fired a 66 early in the third round. The duo is knotted nine-under-par 207.
Brad Faxon, who came over to local qualifying last week, shot a two-under 70 and is tied for fifth place with Sergio Garcia, who carded a 69 on Saturday, at minus-eight.
Reigning U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell got back into the mix with a four-under 68. Campbell, who held the 54-hole lead when the tournament was at St. Andrews in 1995, is tied for seventh place with Vijay Singh, who posted a one-under 71, at seven-under-par 209.
Woods began the final round with a four-shot lead over Montgomerie and no other players were able to close that gap until Tim Clark birdied his first three. Woods dropped a shot at the second when his three-footer for par lipped out of the hole. That dropped him to 10-under, and thanks to a six-foot birdie putt by Goosen at the 16th, Woods' lead was only one.
Goosen missed a six-foot par save at 17, but made a putt from the same length at the last for birdie to get in at minus-nine.
Woods then two-putted for birdie at the par-five fifth, but a pair of Europeans then cut the gap. He dropped a shot at the sixth when he drove into an unplayable lie near a gorse bush.
Montgomerie drained a six-footer for birdie at the fifth to reach eight-under par. He rolled in back-to-back birdie putts at the ninth and 10th to close the margin to one. Woods, who birdied the seventh, made a nice par at nine when he once again had to take a penalty for finding a gorse bush from the tee.
Olazabal cruised along with a pair of birdies on the front nine. At the 12th, Olazabal holed a 40-foot, left-to-right eagle putt up a slope to also reach 10-under par.
'It was a sweet moment,' said the Spaniard.
Things took a bad turn for the European tandem. At the 11th, Montgomerie came up 40 feet short and right of the pin at the par-three hole. His birdie try came up seven feet short and the Scotsman never touched the hole with his par putt. Woods had almost the exact same birdie putt and went to school on Monty's putt, lagging it to tap-in range.
Olazabal landed in a bunker at 13 and also made bogey. The pair was two behind the 2000 Open Champion, and Woods' length gave him the advantage at the par- four 12th.
His long drive at 12 allowed him to putt his eagle try, a common occurrence on Friday when he putted for eagle on three different par-fours. Woods rolled his 60-footer to nine feet, while Montgomerie had a look from close to 10 feet. Montgomerie's try came up a foot short and Woods poured his in the center to take a three-shot lead.
Olazabal shaved the number down to two with a spectacular birdie at the closing hole.
At the 16th, Woods drove into the rough, then ran through the putting surface with his second. He had a difficult pitch and the ball flew 35 feet past the stick. Woods missed that putt, left himself with almost four feet, but converted the putt for bogey.
Woods now had a one-shot lead and hit his tee ball into the left rough at the Road Hole, No. 17, at St. Andrews. He had an interesting lie in the fescue and tried to bump and run his ball on to the putting surface. It did not work as his ball leaked off the green. Woods' birdie try skidded 10 feet past the hole, leaving him with a tester to keep sole possession of the lead. He sank the putt to save par and the lead, then gave one of his traditional fist pumps.
'That was huge to keep the big mo' going,' admitted Woods. 'I felt like I battled all day and I didn't want to go back over par for the day. It would feel good making par there, then birdieing 18 to finish under par for the day after battling all day.'
At the last, Woods drove the ball left of the putting surface. He saw Montgomerie come up 20 feet short with his eagle putt from roughly the same distance, so Woods wrapped his to within a foot. Woods tapped in for the two- stroke cushion.
'It got hard coming in,' admitted Woods, who won this title by eight in 2000. 'I tried not to drop any coming home. I figured if I shot under par somehow for the day, more than likely, I would have a piece of the lead. To end up with the lead is pretty sweet.'
While the field drew closer, Woods has one statistic that makes him a tremendous favorite come Sunday. He's owned at least a piece of the 54-hole lead in nine majors, and he's won all nine.
'Having the experience to call upon to go out there and play with the lead, it doesn't hurt,' said Woods. 'I've done it before. Hopefully tomorrow I can put a quality round together.'
Olazabal will be in the hunt for his third major title and first British Open. He captured a pair of green jackets, including the 1999 title, which was his first major since missing time with a back injury in the mid-90s.
'I've had three great days on the golf course and I'm really enjoying myself this week,' said Olazabal. 'Obviously it's a bonus to be here because how I got in. I'll try to have as much fun as possible.'
John Daly, who won this title here in 1995, shot a two-under 70 and is tied for ninth place at six-under-par 210. He was joined six shots off the lead by Bart Bryant (71), Tim Clark (70), Darren Clarke (67), Soren Hansen (66), Maarten Lafeber (67), Bernhard Langer (70), Sean O'Hair (70), Kenny Perry (68), Scott Verplank (72) and 1985 champion Sandy Lyle (69).
Phil Mickelson moved up the leaderboard early on Saturday, but posted two bogeys and a double-bogey in the last seven holes. He managed an even-par 72 and is tied for 29th at minus-three.
Ernie Els, the 2002 champion, struggled to a three-over 75 and is part of a group that shares 56th at even-par 216.
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