Tiger Woods back in it after 66

Updated: March 9, 2014, 11:20 AM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

DORAL, Fla. -- 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 6-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.

At the end of play Saturday, Woods is tied for fourth, a shot behind Jason Dufner and Hunter Mahan, and three strokes behind third-round leader Patrick Reed.

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 1-over 73], a long day -- a long, tough day and that gave me a chance today.

"I figured, hey, I'm only 6 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.

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods
Chris Trotman/Getty ImagesTiger Woods celebrates one of his eight birdies Saturday, this one on the 15th hole at Doral.

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.

Reed turned his game around in four holes Saturday at the Cadillac Championship and wound up with a 3-under 69.

Reed rolled in a 40-foot eagle putt on No. 8, and started the back nine with consecutive birdies. He drove the green on the par-4 16th for a two-putt birdie that gave him the outright lead and finished with a two-shot lead over Dufner (68) and Mahan, who bogeyed his last hole for a 71.

Reed was at 4-under 212, the highest 54-hole score to lead at Doral since a three-way tie at 212 in 1985.

The 23-year-old Texan will be going for his third win in his last 14 tournaments, dating to the Wyndham Championship in August. He was tied for the 54-hole lead that week and won in a playoff. Reed also went wire-to-wire to win the Humana Challenge in January.

"If you have a 54-hole lead, that means you're playing the best golf of the group through three rounds," he said. "Tomorrow is Sunday, but at the same time, it's another round of golf. ... We've won twice since August. We've played great. And if I continue doing what I'm supposed to be doing, come Sunday afternoon, hopefully we're holding the trophy."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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