Tiger birdied six of his first seven holes en route to a five-under 65. He leads Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy by three. 

By Daniel Rapaport
September 22, 2018

For an hour-and-a-half period on Saturday at East Lake, Tiger Woods was doing Tiger Woods things. 

Bombing drives down the middle. Firing irons right at flags. And, most importantly, finding the center of the hole with his birdie putts. 

Woods birdied six of his first seven holes to seize control of the Tour Championship. He would play the last 11 holes in one-over but still managed to shoot 65 and post 12-under, good enough for a three-shot lead over Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy. 

Woods and McIlroy will play together in the final round of a PGA Tour event for just the second time, with the other coming at the 2015 Masters when both were out of contention. 

Woods is seeking his 80th PGA Tour victory but first since 2013. 

Rose has the inside track toward winning the FedEx Cup playoffs and the $10 million grand prize. For Woods to win what would be his third FedEx Cup title, he would have to win and have Rose finish in a tie for fifth or worse.

Below is a hole-by-hole recap of Woods round, including highlights and analysis. 

Hole 18, par 5 - Par, -5 for day, -12 for tournament

A bit of a missed opportunity, particularly after a monster 350-yard drive down the center. He had just a long iron from 220 but pulled it into a bunker long and left of the green. He appeared to chunk the bunker shot a bit and only got it to 20 feet and could not convert. A tap-in par for a five-under 65, and he'll take a three-shot lead into Sunday. He'll play in the final pairing with Rory McIlroy. 

Hole 17, par 4 - Par, -5 for day, -12 for tournament

Tiger found the fairway with his driver then played a nice approach to about 15 feet, leaving an uphill, makeable birdie. He played for some right-to-left break but it didn't break, leaving a tap-in par. On to the par-5 18th and one last chance for a birdie ... or better. 

Hole 16, par 4 - Bogey, -5 for day, -12 for tournament

Not all bogeys are created equal, and this was a really good one all things considered. Tiger slipped a bit on his tee shot and pushed it into some gnarly rough on the right side. He hacked at one from there and it ran up toward the green before taking a slope and finishing in a depressed area right of the green. With his fourth, he hit right under it and it did not reach the green, ultimately rolling down the slope again. From there, double bogey seemed likely. But he hit a fantastic pitch into the hill that rolled up to tap-in range. 

He's now played 16 in three over for the past two days, as he made double there yesterday, but that could have been much worse. 

Hole 15, par 3 - Par, -6 for day, -13 for tournament

There is water all in front and right of the par-3 15th, so it's understandable that Tiger bailed out left into a bunker. He played a nice one from there that trickled out to about six feet and hearted the putt. Big par save there. On to 16. 

Hole 14, par 4 - Par, -6 for day, -13 for tournament

Important par save. Drive found the first cut on the right, and he went with 7-iron from there but came up short and right. He played a nice pitch that rolled out to four feet below the hole. Dead-center with the par putt. 

Hole 13, par 4 - Par, -6 for day, -13 for tournament

First sub-par approach from the fairway. After hitting a driver down the middle, Tiger had just a sand wedge into a front pin. He came up a bit short of the green with his approach but left himself about 25 feet straight up the hill. The putt was on the right line but finished a few rolls short. Par.

Hole 12, par 4 - Birdie, -6 for day, -13 for tournament

Tiger found the fairway with a 3-wood, putting him in position to attack. And attack he did, hitting a cut iron to about six feet. Right in the middle with the putt and that gets some momentum back. Rose also made birdie, though, so the lead is still four. 

Hole 11, par 3 - Par, -5 for day, -12 for tournament

Big par save there. He tugged his tee shot on the difficult par 3 and left himself a difficult chip with a huge left-to-right break. He didn't play enough break no the chip and it rolled out to eight feet, but he was able to make that one. 

Justin Rose had 10 feet for birdie and a two-shot swing seemed possible. Instead, the lead stays at four. 

Hole 10, par 4 - Par, -5 for day, -12 for tournament

A solid par after the bogey. He ripped a cut 3-woood into the fairway and played it safe with his approach, aiming for the fat part of the green. His 25 footer for birdie slid by on the right and he cleaned up a three-footer for par. 

Hole 9, par 3 - Bogey, -5 for day, -12 for tournament

First bogey of the day comes after a poor tee ball. He tried to hit a cut into the 235-yard par 3 but double-crossed himself and it sat down in the rough left of the green. He hit a really nice bump-and-run to bout six feet but couldn't get the putt to fall. That irked him. Still, he turns in five-under 30 and leads by four. 

Hole 8, par 4 - Par, -6 for day, -13 for tournament

The birdie train stops, at least momentarily. The 8th is probably the toughest tee shot at East Lake, with water all along the left side and bunkers guarding the right. Tiger bailed out a bit, hitting a cut that started down the right side and caught the primary cut. The ball was sittinig up a bit, though, and he managed to get his second just short of the green, about 25 feet from the hole. He gave it a good run and left it in tap-in range. 

Hole 7, par 4 - Birdie, -6 for day, -13 for tournament

Not even a fairway bunker can stop him. Tiger pulled a 3-wood into a fairway bunker and hit a magnificent second from 172 yards with a 9-iron (!), a high one onto the front of the green to five feet. Yet another putt in the middle of the hole and that's six birdies in seven holes. His lead is five. This is phenomenal golf. 

Hole 6, par 5 - Birdie, -5 for day, -12 for tournament

Tiger's been hitting the driver well in recent weeks but I'm not sure if he's been this accurate with that club all year. Another one that splits the fairway on the par 5, allowing him to to go for the green in two. After missing the green to the left with a 5-wood over the first two days, he overcut it this time and caught a greenside bunker. He didn't have the greatest lie as he was near the back lip and the ball was sitting down, but he hit a beauty to six feet. Walked in the birdie again. Lead back to four

Hole 5, par 4 - Birdie, -4 for day, -11 for tournament

This is getting a bit ridiculous. He's on auto-pilot. Another driver right down the center and another flagged wedge to about six feet. He walked in the birdie and is just absolutely overflowing with confidence. 

Four birdies in the first five holes with a par 5 next. This round could become special.

Hole 4, par 4 - Birdie, -3 for day, -10 for tournament

Tiger is dialed in. Ripped a driver right down the center the pulled his approach a bit, leaving about 25 feet and a left-to-right putt. Again, dead-center from there and the putter is HOT. 

All the sudden his lead over McIlroy is three, and if he keeps putting like this, it will only grow. 

Hole 3, par 4 - Birdie, -2 for day, -9 for tournament

A stinger long-iron to the right half of the fairway set up a sand wedge approach to a back-left pin. He hit a beauty that finished about 10 feet below the hole and once again, the putt was dead-center. His lead over McIlroy is now two.

He looks tremendously comfortable with the trust Scotty Cameron flatstick back in the bag, and if he keeps hitting fairways he could put some distance between himself and the field. 

Hole 2, par 3 - Par, -1 for day, -8 for tournament

Tiger tried to hit a cut to access a back-right pin but tugged it a bit and it didn't turn, leaving a slippery left-to-right 30-footer. The putt wasn't high enough and ran out to about three feet below the hole, but he cleaned it up without incident. Meanwhile, McIlroy has made two birdies and is one back of Woods' lead.

Hole 1, par 4 - Birdie, -1 for day, -8 for tournament

An ideal start with a ripped driver right down the center. From the middle of the fairway, Tiger hit a soft draw that landed in the middle of the green and inched closer to about 20 feet. The putt was dead-center and that's an opening birdie. Couple that with Rose's bogey and all the sudden Tiger has a two-shot lead. 

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