Tiger Woods is poised to win his seventh title at Firestone after charging to a third round 65 in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Saturday.
Woods started the third day five shots behind leader Padraig Harrington, frustrated by his putting in his second round 70 for a halfway total of two-under 138. But the world number one found his touch with a breathtaking back nine in wet conditions in Akron, Ohio. Woods had made a solid, but unspectacular start, making a birdie on the fifth before giving it back with his only bogey of the third round on the eighth. But a birdie on the second toughest hole on the course at the ninth sparked his charge. Playing impeccable golf from tee to green, Woods gave himself a string of birdie chances and finally made one on the 13th as his second shot spun back to close to the flag. On the 15th, Woods rolled home a 12-footer from another birdie. For once, he missed the fairway on the par-five 16th, and after laying up, his third spun back again to inches from the hole.
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His sixth and final birdie of the day came at the 18th where once again his control of spin and flight saw the ball near to the hole, a six-footer completing his round. At seven-under 203, Woods is set for his fifth victory of the PGA Tour season and ideal preparation for the final major of the year at Hazeltine next week. Woods has been drawn with defending champion Padraig Harrington and Rich Beem for the first two rounds and it was the Irishman who was shaping as his biggest challenger at Firestone. Harrington responded to Woods’ back nine charge by making successive birdies on the 12th and 13th and another at the 15th to maintain his lead, and with South African Tim Clark slipping away was set to be paired with the American on the final day at Firestone. Harrington bogeyed the 16th, but then immediately returned to 10-under with a birdie on the 17th to take a three-shot lead into the final day over Woods. Veterans Kenny Perry and Miguel Angel Jimenez also moved into the picture with fine third round 66s to join a large group on four-under with a day to go. But world number two Phil Mickelson slipped out of contention with a five-over-par 75 to stand four over.