Published: Sun, September 23, 2018
Sports | By Phillip Butler

Tiger Woods takes three-shot lead at Tour Championship

Tiger Woods takes three-shot lead at Tour Championship

ATLANTA-Some five years, one month, and three weeks have passed since Tiger Woods last sat atop a 54-hole leaderboard, a span that would be unfathomable for a man of his talents and accomplishment were it not so well-documented.

Woods opened with a birdie at the first, and didn't stop there, adding birdies at the third, fourth, and fifth holes while co-leader Justin Rose bogied the first and second. He won that weekend five years ago in Akron, just as he has won all 23 times he held a lead of three-plus strokes at a tournament's three-quarter mark, all of those wins coming in a time when the sight of Woods in his Sunday red was practically synonymous with him either closing out or chasing down a victory.

Rose, in his debut at No. 1 in the world, played in the group ahead of Woods and could hear all about it with an enormous gallery right behind him.

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Woods did come back to earth after his blistering start, playing his final 10 holes in 1 over par, but that did little to change the mood as the season moved to within 18 holes of the finish line.

"You certainly want to be leading regardless, simple mathematics, but he's been a pretty good front-runner his whole career and obviously that's going to help, " said Woods' caddie, Joe LaCava. "I felt like I could free-wheel it, and they went in".

On the next hole, Woods found himself staring at a near impossible greenside bunker shot.

"When I grabbed the lead at the Open Championship (it) didn't really feel abnormal, even though it's been years since I've been in those spots", he said.

"I would love to be able to win this event", he said. Either one of those players could get hot and run down Woods; McIlroy remains, pound for pound, the best in the game when his putter is on.

"We'll see what happens", McIlroy continued, "but it'll be exciting to be up there and have a chance to win the golf tournament". It was a slow bleed for Fowler, who went birdie-free over his last 12 holes and shot 39 on the back nine for a 72. He missed several good birdie opportunities as poor putting continues to plague him.

"I hit so many quality shots all day, whether it was tee to green or it was putts", Woods said after his round.

And having won 106 tournaments around the globe, Woods was quizzed if there was any further room for a 107th victory prize.

McIlroy, for his part, says Woods is going to be tough to catch with such a big lead, but he just has to go out and play like he did today. Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose are tied for second place at 9 under par.

Rose has wider reason to keep Woods within view.

Only once since he joined the paid ranks in 2007, when injured past year, has McIlroy skipped Abu Dhabi.

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