Woods in a familiar spot - leading in Atlanta

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The Independent Online

Tiger Woods put together his best consecutive rounds in more than four years. The result was a share of the 54–hole lead, a place it seems he hasn't been in forever.

Playing his best golf of the year in the season–ending Tour Championship, Woods ran off four straight birdies Saturday at East Lake for a 5–under 65, leaving him tied with 50–year–old Jay Haas.

Woods has won 30 of 32 events when he has had at least a share of the lead entering the final round.

The last time he held the 54–hole lead was last year at the American Express Championship just north of Atlanta. That was 19 stroke–play tournaments ago, which also is the last time Woods won such an event.

"I'm going to give it my best," Woods said.

Haas recovered from two early bogeys and shot 68, making a 6–foot par putt on the final hole to join Woods at 9–under 201.

Woods has won 40 times in his eight–plus years on tour, including eight majors.

Haas has gone 11 years since his ninth career victory, the 1993 Texas Open. He has been atop the leaderboard going into the final round only three times since then.

"I definitely won't be the favorite tomorrow," Haas said. "But what he does shouldn't affect what I do."

U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen of South Africa also made four straight birdies playing with Woods and had the outright lead until he failed to save par from two bunkers on the back nine. He shot 69 and was four shots behind, along with Canada's Mike Weir (67) and Stephen Ames (70) of Trinidad and Tobago.

Vijay Singh's bid to finish the year with 10 victories – the most since Sam Snead won 11 times in 1954 – crashed with an indifferent round of 70 that left him 11 shots out of the lead.

"You've got to be in contention to be 100 percent into it," Singh said. "I'm just not into it."

Woods got himself into the mix with his two lowest consecutive rounds (64–65) since he won the Canadian Open four years ago by closing with 64–65–64.

Woods' only bogey over the last two days was a three–putt from some 50 feet on the opening hole Saturday. But he Woods recovered with some clean shots and timely putts – a 9–iron to 10 feet on No. 8 and to 12 feet on No. 9, followed by a couple of 30–footers down the slope that trickled into the cup on their last roll.

He suddenly looked like the Woods of old, pumping his fist, pointing at the cup when the ball disappeared. Even a few breaks started falling his way, none greater than a wayward drive on the 17th that landed on the grassy slope of a bunker and stopped in a patch of short grass between two traps.

But while a victory might take some of the sting out of a frustrating year, this might be one case where Woods could be the spoiler.

Haas has been one of the more amazing stories in golf the last two years. Despite being eligible for the 50–and–over Champions Tour, he has continued to tee it up against the best with strong results. He was the second–oldest player to compete in the Ryder Cup, and he became the oldest to qualify for the Tour Championship.

All he has to do now is take down the most formidable closer in golf for his first victory in more than a decade.

"It probably takes a little pressure off me," Haas said. "If I don't win, everybody will say, 'Well, my goodness, he's up against one of the best players in the world and he's 50 years old,' and all that stuff. That's kind of disrespecting myself if I think that way.

"I can do it. I've got to think that."