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Woods hunting Westwood in British Open

By Chris Murphy, CNN at Muirfield
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Sat July 20, 2013
Major-hungry Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood are vying for the British Open crown
Major-hungry Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood are vying for the British Open crown
  • England's Lee Westwood takes a two-shot lead after the third round of the British Open
  • Americans Tiger Woods and Hunter Mahan are two shots behind on one-under
  • Masters champion Adam Scott is one shot further adrift on even par
  • Spain's overnight leader Miguel Angel Jimenez drops back to 11th on three over

Muirfield (CNN) -- It is a British Open Sunday dripping with potential storylines.

Another sun-drenched day on Muirfield's links ended with Tiger Woods in the hunt to break his five-year major drought; standing in his way is a man gunning for his first at the 62nd attempt.

Lee Westwood played in his first Open Championship 18 years ago and is still to claim his breakthrough title after years spent hovering around the game's top echelons.

On increasingly parched terrain, the 40-year-old Englishman's much-maligned putting stroke held firm over the closing holes as he entered the sanctuary of the clubhouse on three-under, a lead of two shots.

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Woods lies locked on one-under with fellow American Hunter Mahan, whose 68 was the best round of the day, while Masters champion Adam Scott, from Australia, is a further shot back on level par.

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The tournament's overnight leader, Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez, slipped six shots off the pace after carding a disappointing 77 while Sweden's Henrik Stenson is in a clutch of players on one-over that includes two-time major winner Angel Cabrera.

Westwood has come close on several occasions, finishing in the top five on no fewer than eight occasions, but his run of 61 majors without success is an unwanted record.

Despite being on the precipice, he said he'll sleep soundly knowing he could be hours from filling the glaring hole in his golfing resume.

"I'm not in a high pressure situation because I'm going to go and have dinner and I'm so good with a knife and fork now I don't feel any pressure at all," he joked in a press conference.

"I'll think about winning the Open Championship tonight at some stage I'm sure -- I don't think there's anything wrong with picturing yourself holding the Claret Jug on the final green.

"But when it comes down to it tomorrow and I tee off about 3pm I'll be in the same frame of mind as I was today.

"Even though I haven't won a major championship I know what it takes to win one. It's just a case of going out there tomorrow and having confidence in my game."

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Woods, meanwhile, was upbeat about his chances of securing a 15th major, having grappled with a loss of form and a series of injuries since his last triumph, at the U.S. Open in 2008, when he played with Westwood on the final day.

But with four PGA Tour titles under his belt already this season the 37-year-old has underlined his ability to close out tournaments.

"I'm only two back, there's only guy ahead of me and we'll see what they do tomorrow," Woods told a press conference. "I noticed everybody this morning was leaving the ball short, couldn't get a ball in the hole.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge of it, I've been in this position before over the last five years. I've been in that mix and I'm in it again.

"Hopefully I can play well and win the tournament."

Unsurprisingly for a man into his 19th Open campaign, Westwood's popularity among the patrons of the tournament was cemented long ago, reflected in the vociferous thousands who cheered him on through his round.

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One of the biggest roars was reserved for his eagle on the fifth hole, propelling him back into credit after an early bogey.

A birdie on the seventh was immediately canceled out by dropped shots on eight and nine as he teetered towards the turn.

Woods balanced two birdies with two bogeys on the front nine as both players began the homeward stretch on exactly the same score as they had set off with from the first tee.

But it was Westwood whose nerve held strongest as the pair, and the swelled ranks of the gallery, winded their way back towards Muirfield's clubhouse, a landmark that has stood on the East Lothian coast since 1891.

A birdie was a formality for Westwood after a delicate approach to the 14th but his round threatened to disintegrate on the par three 16th hole after shoving his tee shot into the thick rough that has tied many of the world's finest players in knots this week.

After a fluffed second and a third that left him with much to do, the man who moved to Florida to hone his shot game holed a critical putt to limit the damage.

Meanwhile Woods saw his birdie attempt shave the left side of the hole. It was to prove a costly miss when his tee shot on the 17th trickled into one of the many sand traps that complement these famous links.

Woods missed a ten foot putt for par while Westwood made one of similar range to edge to three-under and prise open a slice of daylight between himself and the chasing pack.

Mahan is also searching for his first major championship and his round of 68 was better than anything produced on the third day of competition. He'll be in the final pairing with Westwood on Sunday.

"You've got to have the belief before you can win it," Mahan explained to reporters. "I think with trusting yourself you can go out there and do all kinds of great stuff."


But as the denouement of this great sporting drama enters its twilight hour, it is the names of Westwood and Woods that will burn the lips of fans who'll pour through the gates on the last day of competition.

As the pair shook hands after regulation pars on the final green they departed knowing they are only 18 holes from ending the drought, but will it be five or 18 years of pain erased come Sunday evening in Scotland?

Or will the agony of waiting continue?

The wait for next year's British Open ended swiftly for Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee as he made a U-turn from London's Heathrow airport back to Edinburgh after finding out he had made the cut for the weekend.

"This is the first time in my life that this has happened to me but it was quite fun!" said Thongchai, who added ruefully he had been looking forward to seeing his family in Thailand.

Former Open champion Paul Lawrie had to abandon walking his dog after also heading home to Aberdeenshire only to find out he had also survived the cut.

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