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?
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The beat is on: Alfred Doda, Gjevat Kelmendi and Orli Shuka in ‘Hyena’
filmReview: Hyena takes corruption and sleaziness to a truly epic level
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable