GULLANE, United Kingdom: Lee Westwood will take a two-stroke lead into Sunday’s climax to the British Open after he and Tiger Woods duelled for the lead throughout Saturday’s third round.
Playing together in the penultimate pairing, they both quickly sped past overnight leader Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain and then went head-to-head over the mighty Muirfield links on another sun-drenched afternoon.
At the end of it, 40-year-old Englishman Westwood was the winner thanks to a pivotal 17th hole when he birdied, while Woods bogeyed for a two-stroke swing.
“I played nicely. I didn’t hit too many bad shots. I controlled well once I hit it well. I made some good saves. Short game was sharp. Made some nice putts,” was Westwood’s verdict on his day’s work.
“I’ll think about winning The Open Championship tonight at some stage, I’m sure. I don’t see anything wrong with that, picture yourself holding the Claret Jug at the final tee and seeing your name at the top of the leaderboard.
“When it comes to tee off around threeish, I should be in the same frame of mind as I was today. I didn’t feel any pressure and felt nice and calm out there and in control of what I was doing.”
Woods said that he was pleased with his round and would now look to use his experience to try and win his 15th major on Sunday, over five years after his last triumph.
“I’ve got 14 of these things, and I know what it takes to win,” he said.
“I’m pleased where I’m at. I’m only two back. There’s only one guy ahead of me,” he said.
Hunter Mahan of the United States was the only other player to stay under par, by the smallest of margins, thanks to a 68 and he will go out with Westwood in the final pairing on Sunday.
Woods will partner Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia, who was alone on level par after a 70.
Asked if past experiences would help him cope with being in the final pairing on Sunday Mahan replied: “I think it does. Because I think it can be overwhelming at times.
On a day of fluctuating fortunes, the best golfers in the world again grappled with the deep pot bunkers, bouncy fairways and super-fast greens that are the mark of the famed East Lothian links.
Some succeeded and will contest for golf’s supreme title on Sunday, others failed and will make up the numbers in the final round.
At the start of the day Jimenez was leading by one with a quartet of Woods, Westwood, Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson breathing hotly down his neck.
In the space of two holes Woods was ahead thanks to a 18-foot birdie putt followed by a missed four-footer from Jimenez minutes later.
Westwood then went on a charge, sinking a monster putt for eagle from the edge of the fifth green and adding a birdie at the seventh to lead by three.
But he bogeyed the next two holes, and he and Woods made the turn tied at two under.
Westwood nudged ahead again thanks to a majestic mid-iron approach shot to six feet at the 14th, but a wayward four-iron at the par-three 16th saw the duo back level again.