Tour Championship 2018: Tiger Woods Lone Leader After Stellar Saturday Play

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistSeptember 22, 2018

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Tiger Woods of the United States plays a shot on the third hole during the third round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on September 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Tiger Woods shot a five-under 65 in the third round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta on Saturday to secure the solo lead entering Sunday's final round. 

Woods held a share of the lead with Justin Rose after two rounds, but following Saturday's dominant performance, he now sits at 12-under, which puts him three strokes ahead of Rose and Rory McIlroy in second place.

Here is a look at the top of the leaderboard after three rounds, courtesy of PGATour.com:

1. Tiger Woods: -12 (65)

T2. Justin Rose: -9 (68)

T2. Rory McIlroy: -9 (66)

T4. Kyle Stanley: -6 (67)

T4. Jon Rahm: -6 (68)

T6. Paul Casey: -5 (66)

T6. Tony Finau: -5 (67)

T6. Billy Horschel: -5 (69)

T9. Five players tied at -4

    

Tiger hasn't won a tournament since 2013, but he is in great position to end the drought with the 54-hole lead.

According to Golf Channel's Justin Ray, history is on Woods' side when it comes to leading by three or more strokes after three rounds:

Woods was red hot out of the gates Saturday, as he birdied six of his first seven holes and finished the front nine with a score of 30.

After birdies on Nos. 1 and 3, Tiger buried a lengthy birdie putt on the par-four fourth to begin to separate from the field:

For as solid as Tiger was on the greens Saturday, the best aspect of his game may have been his iron play, as many of his approach shots landed within just a few feet of the hole.

His second shot on No. 5 was an ideal example, as it set up an easy par putt that Woods converted:

Even when the 42-year-old veteran got into trouble, he managed to work his way out of it more often than not.

A nearly perfect bunker shot on No. 6 set the stage for his fourth consecutive birdie:

Woods also found a fairway bunker on the par-four seventh, but he barely managed to clear a green-side bunker on his ensuing shot before sinking another birdie putt:

The only blemish on Tiger's front-nine scorecard came on the par-three ninth, as he carded a bogey to narrowly miss out on a 29 at the turn.

With Woods leaving the rest of the field in his dust, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry was blown away by his performance:

Things were a bit dicier on the back nine for Tiger, as birdies proved far more difficult to come by.

He did post a birdie on the par-four 12th, but Woods gave that stroke back on the par-four 16th with a bogey.

Tiger made a major error on the 16th by failing to get his chip up a hill, which resulted in the ball rolling nearly all the way back to him:

He did manage to save bogey on the hole, though, before finishing his round with pars on the 17th and 18th.

Woods was in a class by himself in the third round, but his closest competitors are top-flight players capable of making a run Sunday.

Rose had an up-and-down day that featured five birdies and three bogeys, but approaches such as the following one on No. 12 helped keep him within striking distance of Tiger:

The biggest threat to Woods ending his lengthy drought may be McIlroy, who played a fairly clean round of golf Saturday.

McIlroy was especially good early, as he nearly made an ace on the par-three second before settling for a birdie:

Although the odds of him catching Woods are slim, Paul Casey turned in one of the best rounds Saturday with a four-under 66.

Per Ray, he is in line to continue his long-running trend of strong finishes at the TOUR Championship:

Bryson DeChambeau is well out of contention due largely to the 75 he posted Friday, but he also carded a four-under 66 in the third round.

He also produced arguably the best shot of the day when he holed out for eagle from 100 yards out on No. 17:

Other big names out of the running include Jason Day at even-par, Brooks Koepka at four-over and Phil Mickelson, who is last in the field at 11-over.

Tiger cooled down the stretch Saturday, but he gave himself a nice cushion over Rose and McIlroy, which will give him some margin for error Sunday.

In addition to having a chance to win his first tournament since 2013, Woods is in the running to win the FedEx Cup for the first time since 2009 as well.

Tiger will need several scenarios to work in his favor, including Rose finishing in a three-way tie for fifth or worse.

A win Sunday would be huge for Woods' confidence ahead of the 2019 season, and taking the FedEx Cup in the process would add another chapter to a historic comeback story following four major back surgeries.

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