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Woods seizes a once-familiar spot: leading a major

Woods seizes a once-familiar spot: leading a major

July 20th, 2013 by PAUL NEWBERRY, AP National Writer in News

GULLANE, Scotland (AP) - Tiger Woods found himself in a once-familiar position: leading a major championship on the weekend.

Shaking off a couple of bogeys on the front side at treacherous Muirfield, Woods grabbed a share of the lead simply by holding his ground in the third round of the British Open on Saturday.

Woods made the turn at 2 under, the same score he had after 36 holes, and was tied with England's Lee Westwood as 36-hole leader Miguel Angel Jimenez ran into trouble.

Playing in the next-to-last group with Westwood, Woods had the lead all to himself when he birdied the second hole and Jimenez came along a few minutes later and made bogey.

Then it was Westwood surging out front when he curled in a 60-footer off the front of the green for an eagle at the fourth, pushing his score to 3 under overall. The 40-year-old Englishman appeared to be pulling away when he birdied the par-3 seventh, putting himself three shots clear of the field.

But it doesn't take long for things to change at baked-out Muirfield, where the weather has been postcard-perfect - sunny, temperatures in the 70s, with nary a hint of rain - but the course has proven to be a brutal test, with fairways that could pass for paved roads and greens that are as firm as a snooker table.

Westwood's lead was gone by the time he headed to the back side. He closed the front with two straight bogeys, including the par-5 ninth when he drove into a bunker, ran his third shot through the green and couldn't get up-and-down.

Woods, on the other hand, did get up-and-down from a greenside bunker for birdie, snatching his ball out of the cup and heading to the 10th with a confident bounce in his step.

The last time Woods led a major after 54 holes was the 2009 PGA Championship, which turned out to be the first time he ever lost a major when taking the lead to Sunday. Y.E. Yang pulled off the upset at Hazeltine.

Woods hasn't been in that position since then, his life turned upside down by scandalous affairs and divorce while his golf game was plagued by physical problems and a swing change. The last time he won a major was the 2008 U.S. Open, leaving him in an 0-for-16 slump that is the longest of his career, a stretch that includes missing four other majors because of injuries.

He looks healthy at Muirfield and intent on picking up his 15th major title, which would pull him within three of Jack Nicklaus' record.

Jimenez scrambled to the lead over the first two days, but the Mechanic wasn't such a magician on Saturday. Errant drives and wayward irons began to take their toll, leading to bogeys on four of the first eight holes. But he stopped the free-fall with a birdie at the ninth and was just two strokes off the lead.

Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera was even on the day and 1 under for the tournament, one stroke behind Woods and Westwood. Hunter Mahan was the leader in the clubhouse, shooting a 3-under 68 that left him at 1-under 212 overall.