Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will be paired together in Sunday’s final group at East Lake Country Club, Woods holding a three shot lead over his younger rival with just 18 holes of season 2018 remaining.
Woods posted the best round of Saturday in the 30-player field, a 5-under 65 that included an electric start with six birdies in his first seven holes and seven overall for the day.
McIlroy was one of three players to sign for the next best total, a 4-under 66, as he reached 9-under and booked a tee time with his boyhood idol late Sunday afternoon.
It is just the second time the pair will play together on a Sunday, the previous occasion coming at the 2015 Masters when neither had a legitimate chance to win.
Known as one of the game’s great closers, Woods will need all his considerable powers tomorrow as he faces one of the most pressure packed rounds of his career.
Despite being a 79-time PGA Tour winner and 14 times a major champion he is in somewhat uncharted waters as he authors one of the most remarkable comeback stories in sport.
172, 9-ironSeptember 22, 2018
After almost a decade lost to scandal, injury and surgeries the now 42-year-old has emerged a softer version of his old self and while he has had close calls in 2018 tomorrow marks his first 54-hole lead.
Geoff Ogilvy once said tournament victories can be divided into ‘could haves’ and ‘should haves’ and as impressive as Woods’ ‘could haves’ have been this year tomorrow marks his first ‘should have’ since 2013.
In his post round press conference he said he was looking forward to the head to head with McIIroy and also being in the mix.
“It’s going to be fun,” he said of the pairing with McIlroy. “We haven’t done that much of late because I haven’t been there. He has, he’s won a bunch of tournaments.
“So it’s nice for us to go back out and play against one another and be in the mix.”
Woods says he expects to be comfortable despite the pressure tomorrow and has been surprised at how routine his close calls have already felt this year.
“I felt very comfortable when I got into the mix there in Tampa (the Valspar) even though it was early in my start to the year,” he said.
“And because of that I felt comfortable when I got to Bay Hill and when I grabbed the lead at the Open Championship things didn’t really feel abnormal even though it’s been years – literally years – since I’ve been in those spots.
“I’ve gone through a lot this year to get myself to this point and understanding and fighting my way through it.
“I’m certainly much more equipped (to deal with leading) than I was in March because of what I’ve gone through.”
It’s been a less than stellar week for the three Australians teeing up in Atlanta with Jason Day and Marc Leishman both 12 shots back and T17 heading to the final round while Cameron Smith is 2-over and T21.
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