Tiger Woods leads after going back to find his future

Tiger studies his own videos and learns enough to take share of the lead with a six-under round

Abu Dhabi

There was a good reason the old champion resembled the young Tiger Woods yesterday. The old champion was trying to resemble the young Tiger Woods. He has turned back the clock to set uphis future.

Woods has been told by his coach, Sean Foley, "to do what I did when I was a kid". He has – and all the gifts of the prodigy are starting tore-reveal themselves. "Sean showed me video from my teenage years in which I am in the same impact position," said Woods. "He's like, 'That's amazing, we need to get you back there. You played some pretty good golf when you were young'."

Well, Woods is back there, perched atop a third-round leaderboard in an official event for the first time since that fire-hydrant incident rained ridicule over his reputation. Yes, he won the Chevron World Challenge in California last month, but that is little more than an exclusive 18-man raid of the ATM. With the world's top four in attendance the Abu Dhabi Championship is the real thing, and once again the world No 25 seems the real thing. Yesterday's 66 was control personified.

It was his second bogey-free round of the week as he cruised to 11 under. Rory McIlroy, playing alongside Woods for the third time in as many days, could only shoot a 68, and will have to spend this afternoon without his newest best friend. Yet he will be the likeliest to chase down Tiger and deny him the victorywhich could do so much to set up a defining season. "I've seen him close the last three days, how he's playing, and I feel if I go out there and play my best golf I've got a good chance," said McIlroy. "Obviously Tiger will take the crowds with him tomorrow and maybe I can quietly go along my business and pick up a few shots."

Robert Rock will be the quivering Englishman playing with Woods and the Swede Peter Hanson in the final three-ball. Rock and Woods are two clear of the pack including Hanson and McIlroy. Rock once worked at a driving range in Lichfield called Swingers, which is bound to cause a titter or two on the Tiger message-boards. For the 34-year-old, however,this is no laughing matter.

"Yes, I probably will be cacking myself on the first tee," said Rock, who at last year's Italian Open ended a nine-year wait to win his first European Tour event. "But this is an opportunity not to be missed. I want to say I've done it [beaten Woods] at least once. I'm not sure how much sleep I'll get, but we'll find out tomorrow how well I cope with it."

It might have been the classic golfing case of be careful what you wish for, but Rock was determined to achieve his ambition. "I bogeyed the 16th and thought that could cost me. The chance was slipping away, so I had to do something about it," he said.

Birdies on the last two holes, the 10-footer on the final green ensuring Woods did not hold the outright lead, was a gutsy response from the Midlander, who is not averse to late-night parties. There is something about his laidback persona which suggests he could just have what it takes to toppleTiger. On this evidence, however, it would be some effort. The sense was Woods had another gear to use, if he thought it necessary.

"I didn't do a lot of things right, but I didn't do a lot wrong either," he said. "It was just a very consistent round of golf. I stayed away from the troubleand kept the ball towards the fat side of some of those pins."

In contrast, McIlroy, as is his way, went for it, particularly on the 18th. He sliced his drive and tried a spectacular shot over the water which ended up behind a scoreboard. He escaped with his par to fight anotherday, and did so with a new admirer.

"I haven't played with Rory a lot before here, so this was quite a treat," said Woods. "He's a great kid and just an unbelievable talent. He's not afraid to take on shots, which is really cool to see, and it's just a matter of time before he gains more knowledge."

Perhaps this was the first glimpse of a friendly rivalry which will dominate the next five years of golf. What a boon it would be to have Woods returning to the elite, with that look back in his eye, with the certainty back in his walk, with the gallantry back in his gait.

A win today would haul him back into the world's top 10 and send him into his US Tour seasonal debut at Pebble Beach in two weeks' time with the progress at last living up to his billing. It's been a long time. Too long.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions