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August 3, 2009

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Woods shifts into high gear

TIGER Woods will take a one-shot lead into the final round of the Buick Open as the world No. 1 shifted into top gear on Saturday firing a seven-under 65.

After an erratic opening round 71 left him eight shots off the pace and sparked talk of missing consecutive cuts for the first time in his professional career, Woods has spectacularly hit back to top the leaderboard on 17-under 199, one shot clear of faltering American Michael Letzig.

Woods triggered a wild roar that rumbled across the Warwick Hills layout in Grand Blanc, Michigan, when he rolled in a 34-foot birdie on the par-three 17th to join Letzig at the top of the leaderboard.

It looked to be the way the third round would end until Letzig stumbled to a double-bogey at the 18th for a four-under 68, gifting Woods a one-stroke lead.

Australian John Senden, who held a two-shot lead overnight, struggled to a one-under 71 to leave him two back going into the final round.

It will be the 50th time Woods has taken a lead into the final round. He has gone on to win the title 46 of the previous 49 times.

"I had put myself so far back and it's not like a US Open where you can make it up (here) in one round," Woods told reporters. "It's going to take two or three rounds...I'm right there at the end of the championship."

Woods, who went birdie, birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie to open his second round on Friday for the best five-hole start to a round in his career, began Saturday four off the pace and made another red-hot start.

He reeled off three consecutive birdies from the second and one more at the seventh, though the 33-year-old American dropped his only shot of the day at the eighth.

He was bogey-free the rest of the way notching birdies at 12, 13, 16 and 17. "I got it going, hit some good shots, made three (birdies) in a row there," said Woods, who is eying a third Buick Open title.

The pressure will be all on Letzig, who is making his 50th PGA Tour start while Woods will be bidding for his 69th PGA title and fourth of the season. It marks the second time this year the two have been paired together in a final round. Woods won the Memorial after shooting a 65 while Letzig had a 75.

Home winner

At Lytham St Annes, England, Catriona Matthew tightened her grip on the Women's British Open with a third-round 71 on Saturday as she aimed to become the first home winner of the event since 2004.

Tied for the lead at halfway, Matthew, who has won six tournaments, had three birdies and posted a four-under total to lead by three shots from American Christina Kim.

The defending champion from South Korea, Shin Ji-yai (68), and Japan's Ai Miyazato (70), who won her first LPGA tournament last week at the Evian Masters, are joint third on even par. Another Korea-Japan pairing Kim Song-hee (74) and Mika Miyazato (69) were tied for fifth at one-over.

Giulia Sergas of Italy, who shared the overnight lead with Matthew, shot a 78 to drop to 11th place.

The last British winner of the event was Karen Stupples at Sunningdale in 2004.


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