Tiger Woods & Robert Rock share Abu Dhabi lead

Abu Dhabi Championship leaderboard

  • -11: T Woods (US), R Rock (Eng)
  • -9: P Hanson (Swe), F Molinari (Ita), R McIlroy (NI), P Lawrie (Sco)
  • Selected others: -8: T Olesen (Den)
  • -7: G McDowell (NI), J Donaldson (Wal), M Manassero (Ita)
  • -4: L Westwood (Eng), P Harrington (Ire)
  • Level: L Donald (Eng)
Tiger Woods

Woods won the last tournament he played in California in December

Tiger Woods and Robert Rock are two shots clear at the top of a congested leaderboard after a low-scoring third round at the Abu Dhabi Championship.

Former world number one Woods hit six birdies in a bogey-free 66 while England's Rock birdied the last two holes to claim a share of the lead.

First-round leader Rory McIlroy is tied third with three others on nine under.

Peter Hanson's eight-under 64 lifted him to a share of third with Francesco Molinari and Scotland's Paul Lawrie.

Swede Hanson rolled in four birdies on both the outward and inward nine to record the lowest round on a day of low scoring and catapult himself 29 places up the leaderboard.

The lead changed hands 24 times with South Africa's James Kingston, France's Jean-Baptiste Gonnet, Hanson and Rock all leading the standings and, at one stage, eight players were level at the top.

Woods, who showed glimpses of the form that has won him 14 major titles, looked set to hold the outright lead on his own though after a tremendous two-putt birdie on the last lifted him to 11 under.

Analysis

This is the best golf seen from Tiger Woods since his infamous car crash more than two years ago. The evidence of the first three rounds, and in particular this 66, suggests he is truly back. Woods is playing with control and composure and he has recorded only two bogeys all week. His putting has become more secure as the tournament has progressed and it will be fascinating to see how he fares in the pressure of the final round. There is no indication of him faltering and he knows that he stands on the threshold of one of the most significant wins of his illustrious career. Robert Rock is one of the fastest improving players on the European Tour and he has huge potential. The final round in the company of Woods will be a big test of his temperament and potentially an invaluable experience.

"It's fun when I'm able to control the golf ball like I did,'' Woods said.

"It just seemed like I didn't do a lot of things right but I didn't do a lot of things wrong today. It was just very consistent."

The American opened his round with a 10-foot birdie putt and followed that with a run of five pars before picking up another shot after knocking his tee shot on the par-three seventh to five feet.

Further birdies followed on the 10th and 12th and he edged in front after rolling in his fifth of the round on the 14th.

Woods downplayed his chances of winning the tournament, insisting that he would have to shoot below par on Sunday in order to win only his second Tour title since 2009.

"There's a ton of guys with a chance to win,'' Woods said.

"I can't go out there and shoot even par and expect to win. I've got to go out there and go get it.''

Rock's round mirrored Woods's with five birdies in his opening 14 holes - a bogey five on the par-three 16th being the only blight on his card.

But he responded magnificently with birdies on the final two holes.

Lawrie also birdied the last, his seventh of the round in a four-under 68, to improve to nine under alongside McIlroy.

The Northern Irishman, playing alongside Woods, bounced back from Friday's up-and-down round by birdieing the first and fourth holes.

McIlroy three-putted the sixth for a bogey but he atoned by almost holing his tee shot on the seventh and tapping in a simple birdie.

Further birdies on the 15th and 17th lifted him to nine under and he showed good composure to par the last after finding trouble with his tee shot.

"I definitely felt today was a lot better than yesterday,'' McIlroy said.

"Hopefully I can just keep that going tomorrow and maybe get off to a fast start and put pressure on the guys in front of me.''

McIlroy's compatriot Graeme McDowell (68) and Wales' Jamie Donaldson (67) both knocked in six birdies to remain in contention on seven under, with 14 players within four shots of the leaders.

England's world number one Luke Donald birdied three of his first four holes but a bogey on the eighth and a double on the ninth halted his charge and a further dropped shot on the back nine saw him slip back to one over.

Lee Westwood, who has been struggling with a neck injury, produced a bogey-free 68 to move up to four under.