Third-round play at the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield Golf Links is well underway, as the leaders make a push on moving day to capture the Claret Jug.
Expected to be a rather demure event—relatively speaking—Muirfield has showed its teeth throughout the week, sending plenty of the world's best golfers home frustrated with their performances. The lack of cloud coverage and changing wind conditions have led to rock-solid greens and fairways, allowing for no give on even the slightest overshot.
The morning rounds saw scores slightly stabilize, with most of the golfers sticking within the low- to mid-70s range on their cards. There were some notable exceptions—Shiv Kapur's 83 and Kevin Streelman's 82 being chief among them—but the average score should see a slight dip from yesterday's Red Wedding of an outing.
At least, that was the morning expectation. Yesterday's second round saw exactly zero players shoot an under-par score in the afternoon, as the greens and fairways hardened with the rising temperatures, and the early players sucked nearly all of the moisture off the course.
While there have been a couple of players to find success early in the afternoon, players may share a similar fate on Saturday. Conditions are again untenable for the top of the leaderboard, most of whom folks would count among the world's best.
Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood, the most notable pairing of the day, have both held the lead alone at certain points, with the shuffling of the leaderboard seeming more appropriate for a NASCAR race than an Open Championship.
There are just a few players remaining under par as the day winds down, which should make for an interesting final few holes. With that in mind, let's check in on the live leaderboard and see how Saturday has gone for some top names.
2013 Open Championship Leaderboard
1. Lee Westwood (-3 Thru 14)
Searching for his first major championship, Westwood has done everything he possibly can to keep that dream alive over these past two rounds. The 40-year-old Englishman carded a near-impossible 68 in Round 2, carding six birdies on a day when most were desperate for par.
In contrast with his Saturday playing partner, Westwood has taken a blast-and-save approach this week. He's averaged 285.2 yards off the tee for the tournament, smartly picking and choosing where to take the driver. It hasn't resulted in the most accurate of outings—Westwood has hit only 58.2 percent of his fairways and 55.6 percent of his greens—but it has paid big dividends when he's needed it the most.
Particularly, Westwood's excellent eagle on the par-five fifth hole will be one of many scores we point to if he's holding the Claret Jug on Sunday afternoon. Standing 40 feet away from his target while playing on some of the fastest greens you'll ever see, it would have been understandable for Westwood to pull up and hope for a two-putt birdie.
Nope. Westwood went straight at the hole, knocking down one of the better putts of the entire weekend to give himself an outright lead at three under.
A birdie at the par-three seventh put Westwood at four under, at one point having a three-stroke lead over the entire field. But as we've learned this week, Muirfield giveth, and she taketh. Westwood coughed up his impressive lead over the field, bogeying Nos. 8 and 9 to move back to two under, undoing he eagle-birdie combo that put him in the lead.
Westwood's bogey on the ninth, a par-five, was especially frustrating. Not only did he miss a chance to card a good number on one of the three holes that have played under par this week, but he watched on as Woods birdied to tie up the leaderboard.
Luckily for Westwood, he roared back with a nice birdie on the 14th—one of the hardest holes of the day—to take a one-stroke lead through 14.
2. Tiger Woods (-2 Thru 14)
Throughout Tiger's career, driving accuracy has been one of his biggest Achilles' heels. There have been many pundits who have implored Woods to use his driver less—some wanting him to eschew it altogether—and work on simply getting the ball in the fairway.
Woods has always been one of the world's best ball-strikers, and his putting has vastly improved to the point where he's arguably the best on tour at the moment. He finds himself getting into trouble by trying to do too much, often spraying shots into the gallery when a more accurate wood or even an iron would suffice.
It's one of the reasons why Tiger has always succeeded on fast courses. They allow him to go down a club or two at times, often leading to more accurate tee shots and better positioning around the green.
Such is the case on Saturday and throughout this Open Championship. Tiger has been at the top or among the leaders in driving accuracy all week, combining with scintillating numbers on the green for a perfect contention formula. Woods has been calm and collected while others have faltered, putting himself in a position to win his first major in five years.
During his first nine holes in Round 3, Tiger was again in top form. ESPN's Bob Harig noted that Eldrick hit every fairway on the front nine, only faltering twice when he missed greens on the front's two par-three holes.
Woods wasn't as superb off the tee to start his back nine off, but he has managed to keep himself afloat with timely two-putts and excellent positioning to stay level-par for the day. Considering so many of the world's best are just trying to keep their heads above water, Woods is in a great position to be in the final group on Sunday.
Plenty can go wrong as he closes the round, but there is no one playing more consistent golf this week.
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