Tiger stirs into action as Garcia reverts to type

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The Independent Online

We've been here before haven't we? Sergio Garcia blowing a lead while Tiger Woods comes back from the golfing dead to set up a charge at yet another title.

Indeed, it was possible to forget recent events, recent personal crises as Woods went from being eight shots off the pace at the turn to finish within one of the lead. In a bizarre, brutal day in the desert, the stand-out moments were the obligatory Tiger 25-footer on the 18th. And dare we suggest it, the just as familiar Sergio calamity.

The latter came at the 17th. The Spaniard – playing only his third tournament after a three-month self-enforced break to recover his mojo – struck a drive he thought would hit the par-four green, but arrived at the putting surface to find his ball had ricocheted off a tree into a bush. "The odds of hitting an eight-inch branch from 340 yards are bigger than I thought," he said, waging his usual war against the fates. The offending limb led to a double-bogey six, which put the finishing touches to a back-nine 41.

Garcia went away consoling himself that despite his 75, he was on seven-under, just one off the lead held by Rory McIlroy, Anders Hansen and Thomas Aiken. Yet today's draw sheet might have marred his mood. He will play with his nemesis Woods. Cue the recollections of the 2006 Open at Hoylake when Garcia was decked all in yellow and Woods proceeded, in his own words, "to wop Tweetie Pie".

If he needs to, Woods will doubtless feed off the memory, but with 20 players within three of the lead the chances of it turning into a head-to-head are slim. In truth, Woods was simply glad to be in touch after an opening nine which featured three bogeys and a double bogey. That six at the par-four ninth left him eight adrift of Garcia, who had capitalised on the travails of overnight leader McIlroy, who also struggled in the wind.

But, in old Tiger style, Woods eagled the 10th, birdied the 11th, before his long putt with a four-foot break on the last effected the day's biggest cheer. Incredibly, he signed for a level-par 72. He clearly fancies ending his 15-month drought today. "Eighteen straight pars," he laughed. "I just told myself at the turn to get back to level par. I've given myself a chance tomorrow."

With more gusts forecasted it could be as tough. McIlroy showed courage to post a 75 after beginning with three bogeys. "There's been a few rounds like that I've let get away from me, the second round at last year's Open a prime example," he said, thinking back to the 80 at St Andrews. "I didn't let that happen today."