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The Tiger Woods of old shows up in third round of The Open to leave him in contention

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 7/21/2018 Steve DiMeglio
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Video by CBS Sports

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The tranquil nature of this ancient, remote small town was shattered Saturday as Tiger Woods lit up the grey burg and the bright yellow scoreboards and moved into serious contention to win his fourth Claret Jug.

With challenging Carnoustie anything but nasty on an unusually calm day by the North Sea, Tiger knew he had to take a big bite out of Carnoustie’s cupcake conditions to afford himself a legitimate chance to win his 15th major championship on Sunday.

And he did just that, taking advantage of the ripe scoring environment with more aggression than he showed in the opening two rounds. With full control of his game, and his mind – and putter – on point, Woods ripped off six birdies in the opening 14 holes and put his name atop of the leaderboard.

This was the Tiger of old, not an old Tiger that’s been beaten down and hampered by a troublesome back the past four years. He signed for a 5-under-par 66 that left him at 5 under through 54 holes and four shots back of the leaders. And his 66 was his first weekend round in the 60s in the Open since 2007.

“It’s absolutely crazy to think so many people can follow a person,” said playing partner Shaun Norris. “There's a couple of holes that people may be standing 15, 20 deep on each side. I think the best word to describe it all is the way Russell Knox put it, it's like playing with a mythical creature.

“It doesn't feel real.”

In other words, it was a pretty big Saturday afternoon. But while Carnoustie’s olden ground was rocking, the massive galleries buzzing and social media exploding, about the only composed figure on the lot was Woods himself.

Tiger tracker: How Woods fared in Saturday's third round

“I didn't know I was tied for the lead,” said Woods, who grabbed a share of the top spot for the first time after his birdie on the 14th. “I was just concentrating on trying to play the last four holes under par.”

Well, Woods is used to the chaos and fireworks he causes, so that helped. It also helped that he was in total control of every facet of his game, and his confidence grew with each passing hole because his game plan was playing out exactly as he envisioned it would.

Taking a more aggressive approach, he used driver six times, with four of those occasions leading to birdies. His only hiccup came on the 16th when he three-putted from just off the green for a bogey, later saying he hit two terrible putts. And for one of the rare rounds this year, he didn’t waste his good play with a bad hole, as he saved par on the closing hole after nearly hitting his tee shot into the burn. He was forced to lay up to 83 yards – a perfect distance since he practices that shot in the backyard of his Florida seaside compound – and knocked his third to 3 feet and then made the par putt.

He had a bounce in his step and a smile on his face when he left the 18th green.

“It's been a few years since I've felt like this,” in a major, Woods said. “I played well today. I really did. I hit a lot of good shots. I really didn't feel like I really made a bad swing until 18. I really felt like I had control of the golf ball today. And on top of that, I made some longer putts, which was nice.

“The golf course was gettable. I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10-under par today. I had to stay within reach. Five (under) is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

Ah, yes, the potential for nasty weather. Except for persistent rain and cooler temps during the first half of the second round, foul weather hasn’t had a tee time this week. That could change as the forecast calls for rain and for the first time this week strong winds with gusts reaching 25 mph.

While the leaderboard is populated with major champions including Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson and Adam Scott, and emerging stars such as Tommy Fleetwood, Alex Noren and Francesco Molinari on the cusp of winning their first major, Woods is in the thick of it once again in one of the game’s four biggest tournaments.

“I've shown that I've been there close enough with a chance to win this year,” Woods said. “Given what happened the last few years, I didn't know if that would ever happen again. But here I am with a chance coming Sunday in a major championship. It's going to be fun.”

Related slideshow: Scenes from the British Open (Provided by photo services)

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