CARNOUSTIE (Scotland) • It lasted only two holes but there was no mistaking the roars and whoops from the packed galleries, as Tiger Woods briefly held a share of The Open Championship lead yesterday.
The 42-year-old began the day on level-par for the tournament but took full advantage of perfect scoring conditions to collect six birdies from his first 14 holes.
That two-putt from 30 feet on the par-five 14th meant Woods was one of seven co-leaders at that point, although a bogey on the 16th forced the American to settle for a five-under 66.
He ended the day on five-under 208 while compatriots and overnight leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner had not completed their rounds by press time. Both had begun at six-under.
The last time Woods, who won The Open in 2000, 2005 and 2006, topped a Major leaderboard was at the 2013 Masters. He won the last of his 14 Majors at the 2008 US Open and has been beset by injuries and personal strife since.
He looked revitalised here at Carnoustie and began his charge with a birdie at the fourth and picked up another shot at the sixth.
A 25-foot birdie putt dropped on the ninth and Woods carried the momentum into the homeward nine.
His laser-guided second shot to the 10th gave him a tap-in birdie and Woods then had a 95-foot eagle putt on the 11th which he rolled to within five feet and stroked home the birdie putt.
3RD ROUND (SELECTED EARLY SCORES, USA UNLESS STATED)
207 Francesco Molinari (Ita) 70 72 65
208 Tiger Woods 71 71 66
209 Justin Rose (Eng) 72 73 64
210 Yusaku Miyazato (Jpn) 71 74 65, Chris Wood (Eng) 70 74 66, An Byeong-hun (Kor) 73 71 66, Li Haotong (Chn) 71 72 67
MISSED CUT (at 145, selected)
146 Sergio Garcia (Esp) 75 71, Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 75 71, Justin Thomas 69 77
147 Jon Rahm (Esp) 69 78
148 Dustin Johnson 76 72, Bubba Watson 75 73
With excitement mounting around the sprawling links course, Woods recovered from the dropped shot at No. 16 to finish his day with a glorious wedge to five feet on the 18th and scramble for his par before breaking out in a huge smile.
Englishman Justin Rose also had plenty to be happy about yesterday. He shot his best round in a Major and matched the lowest score in Carnoustie's Open history, a flawless seven-under 64 that rocketed him up the leaderboard on 209.
The serenely calm morning on the east coast of Scotland made for perfect conditions for Rose.
The world No. 3 birdied the final two holes, running in a 12-footer at the 18th, and was delighted with his bogey-free scorecard. He took just 25 putts.
The 37-year-old said: "Momentum wise, birdieing the final hole picking up where I left off last night got me into the round early.
"The first couple of days were difficult and frustrating. The birdie on 18 (on Friday night) freed me up and very happy to be here.
"I kept it together mentally, felt a bit more in control with my game too. To keep a clean sheet on this course obviously leads to great stuff."
His only Major title to date is the 2013 US Open, although he came agonisingly close at the Masters last year before losing to Sergio Garcia in a play-off.
Yesterday's performance has given him an outside chance to add to that tally heading into today's final round. He said: "Playing the last four holes, I was pushing myself to make a couple more. Those late couple of birdies certainly will make it at least interesting tomorrow."
His round matched the 64 shot by American Steve Stricker and South African Richard Green in 2007, but fell short of Branden Grace's Major record of 62, which the South African recorded at The Open last year at Royal Birkdale.
No English golfer since Nick Faldo in 1992 has won the Claret Jug but Rose was cautiously optimistic, especially with the extra time he has to get ready.
He said: "Obviously, the benefit of playing this morning is I get to recover a bit quicker than they do."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN
THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
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