Resplendent Woods in joint lead

Resplendent Woods in joint lead

 Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods slugged it out at the British Open as the leadership battle ebbed and flowed in the third round over the bumps and hollows of Muirfield on Saturday.

An eagle and a birdie sent Briton Westwood, bidding for a first major triumph at the 62nd time of asking, three shots clear after seven holes but Woods reeled him in to share the lead at two under par after 11.

Overnight leader Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain, unmistakeable with his frizzy hair and tartan trousers, drifted away after four bogeys in his first eight holes as the rock-hard fairways, tricky bunkers and treacherous greens took their toll.

Nine players began the day under par but as the third round reached its climax only four remained in the red.

American Hunter Mahan fired a three-under-par 68 to move to one-under and Jimenez re-grouped to stay in contention.

Woods, looking to win a 15th major five years after his 14th, got straight down to business with a birdie at the second to briefly move to the top of the leaderboard, only to fritter away a shot at the par-three fourth.

Westwood, cheered on by the packed galleries besides the Firth of Forth, then rose to the challenge in spectacular style.

The 40-year-old played the long par-five fifth to perfection, reaching the green with two drivers before curling in a 25-foot eagle putt to a crescendo of roars that echoed across the parched expanse of the Muirfield course.

Woods failed with a birdie attempt to leave Westwood one clear on three-under and the Briton stretched his lead to three shots when he birdied the seventh and Woods bogeyed.

Just as he appeared to have taken a stranglehold, however, Westwood faltered and Woods took his chance.

At the par-four eighth, Westwood's so-far reliable putter failed him as he made a bogey.
His lead did not even last until halfway round as Westwood found a bunker off the tee at the par-five ninth and he ended up squirting an eight-foot par putt wide.

World number one Woods pounced, flopping out exquisitely from a green-side bunker and converting his birdie chance. They parred the next four holes as the tension mounted. With several contenders falling by the wayside, Mahan, who began the day two over, moved through the field thanks to five birdies in clinical round.

A burst of three consecutive birdies propelled Japan's Hideki Matsuyama into the mix as he reached one under par on the 12th hole but the 21-year-old slipped back and ended with a 72 which included a one-stroke time penalty.

American Phil Mickelson will start Sunday still dreaming of a first Open title, although three bogeys in his last six holes kept him back on two over after a 72.

He is one ahead of Spain's Sergio Garcia who made hay in the morning with a 68 to move through the field.

Scotland's Martin Laird went the other way.

He began the day at one under and with a genuine title chance but he made a horrendous nine at the par-four third where he twice took drops in the waist-high rough.
Most of the early starters were too far back to seriously threaten the leaders but Garcia will believe that anything is possible on the final day, such has been the brutal nature of the Muirfield course this week.

"Obviously I needed to do something like that today to have a slight chance," said Garcia, who along with playing partner Padraig Harrington, was put on the clock.

The lone Indian in the Championships, Shiv Kapur, made a horrendous start to the third round as he returned with two triple-bogeys to find himself at +12 (and +8 for the round) after the front nine on Saturday. Starting the day with two pars, Kapur went on a bogeying spree in the next four holes before returning with three pars in the last three holes of the front nine. Kapur became only the fourth Indian after Jyoti Randhawa (2004), Anirban Lahiri (2012) and Jeev Milkha Singh (2012) to make the cut at the British Open.

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