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Woods plays himself into contention

March 8, 2014 « Furious Sherwood: We're miles from the top four | Chartbeat test »
Tiger Woods impressed to climb the leaderboard © Getty Images
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For the first time in 2014, Tiger Woods will enter the final round of a golf tournament with a legitimate chance to win.

He made that possible on Saturday with his best overall round of the year, a six-under-par 66 on the Blue Monster course at Doral that included eight birdies and had him just a shot off the lead when he finished the third round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Woods is tied for fourth, a shot behind Jason Dufner and Hunter Mahan, and three strokes behind third-round leader Patrick Reed. Rory McIlroy had a day to forget after the former world No.1 hit a three-over 75 to fall in the standings.

Woods shot 65 a week ago at PGA National on a par-70 course but this round was better, he said, after climbing up the leaderboard from a tie for 25th at the start of the day.

"It was nice to get back in the tournament again," Woods said. "I held it together yesterday [a one-over 73], a long day - a long, tough day and that gave me a chance today.

"I figured, hey, I'm only six back, that's definitely doable, especially with the conditions and how difficult this golf course is playing. If I just get back to even par for the tournament, I'll be right there and I did one better."

Woods hit just eight fairways but was never off by much in what was likely his best driving round of the year. He hit 14 greens in regulation and needed just 25 putts. His only bogeys came at the par-3 fourth, where he three-putted from 35 feet (after holing a 92-foot birdie putt the day before) and at the par-3 13th, where he left his second shot in a bunker. He played both sides in 33 and birdied three of the four par 5s.

A week ago, Woods appeared to have turned the corner with a third-round 65 that put him on the fringe of contention at the Honda Classic, a day after barely making the 36-hole cut. But Sunday brought a different feeling: a sore back as he warmed up that turned into spasms and a withdrawal after 13 holes.

Woods didn't hit a shot until Thursday morning after several days of treatment.

After playing 26 holes at Doral on Friday due to the suspended first round, Woods admitted he was "pretty sore last night, but I had treatment every day and my therapists are doing a fantastic job to get me out here and playing."

Woods is off to a rough start in 2014, with a tie for 80th at the Farmers Insurance Open, a tie for 41st at the Dubai Desert Classic and last week's withdrawal from the Honda. He has one more tournament scheduled prior to the Masters, the Arnold Palmer Invitational starting March 20.

Patrick Reed holds a two-shot lead heading into the final day © Getty Images
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This article first appeared on ESPN.com

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