Tiger Woods in Abu Dhabi / Getty Images
The golf world is used to having Tiger Woods in contention going into the weekend, but over the past couple of years, the one thing that seemed to be missing from his game -- besides the usual Sunday fist-pump -- was the ability to stay in the hunt on Saturday.
Even though Woods managed to finally break the winless streak at Sherwood, he still faltered during the third round at Chevron, posting a 1-over 73 that ultimately made things interesting in the final round. There was also the 3-over 75 at the Australian Open that saw his lead, and tournament chances, crumble on Saturday.
For whatever reason, staying in contention on Saturday has been one of Woods' biggest hurdles. But all that finally changed in Abu Dhabi, as Woods fired a bogey-free 6-under 66 on Saturday to grab a share of the lead with Robert Rock going into the final round.
The lead also marked the first time in more than two years that Woods has held the third-round lead in an official tournament. Despite many questioning Woods' victory in a limited-field Chevron event, it's clear from the way he's played through three rounds that we could be witnessing the start of a very special year for the former No. 1.
How good was his third round round? Put it this way, for only the second time in three rounds, Woods missed only two greens and did not make a bogey. Not only that, but he managed to get around the Abu Dhabi Golf Course with only 30 putts.
His swing and his putter finally seem to be on the same page, but here comes the most interesting part for Woods: Closing the deal on Sunday. Woods has won 48 times in 52 PGA Tour events when holding the 54-hole lead, meaning he's almost a sure thing when he's playing from the front.
But with little experience or success -- he blew a 54-hole lead at the 2010 Chevron World Challenge -- in recent years, you have to wonder how he'll handle Sunday's pressure. We've seen him thrive in these moments before, but that was a different Tiger Woods.
Finding a way to win from the front could go a long way to silencing the critics, breaking his winless streak in official events, and getting 2012 off on the right foot. He's 18 holes away from making that a reality.
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