Tiger Woods surges into three-shot lead at Tour Championship after birdie barrage in Atlanta

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TIGER WOODS provided the most emphatic evidence so far that he is back to his brilliant best with a stunning birdie barrage at the Tour Championship.

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The former world No1 made a blistering start to the third round at East Lake by rolling home a 24 footer to birdie the first hole – and he followed up with FIVE birdies in a row from the third.

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Tiger Woods surged into a three-shot lead at the Tour Championship
Tiger Woods surged into a three-shot lead at the Tour Championship
EPA

That set him up for the best round of the day, a six under par 64, and a three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy and world No 1 Justin Rose.

Woods went lower with a 62 in the opening round of the BMW Champion ship two weeks ago, but the wide fairways and rain-softened greens turned that event into a birdie feast.

He said his first round 65 here was a better round – and with the pins tucked away this time and the pressure really on, this was a lot more impressive.

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Tiger Woods was in the zone on Saturday at the Tour Championship
Tiger Woods was in the zone on Saturday at the Tour Championship
Getty Images – Getty
Tiger Woods hit six birdies in the first seven holes in Atlanta
Tiger Woods hit six birdies in the first seven holes in Atlanta
Getty Images – Getty

It was just what Jim Furyk wanted to see just six days before Woods, 42, makes his first Ryder Cup appearance for six years, after the US captain handed him a wild card.

Woods’ fireworks start saw him charge into a five shot lead over new world No 1 Justin Rose just seven holes into the third round, after the pair set off level at seven under par.

Rose, 38, seemed stunned as his playing partner tore the course to shreds, and a bogey-bogey start had him gasping for air.

But he quickly showed the qualities that have taken him to the top of the world rankings. He made three birdies in the next four holes, and kept chipping away at Woods on the back nine.

Tiger Woods was in full flow at East Lake on Saturday
Tiger Woods was in full flow at East Lake on Saturday
Getty Images – Getty
Rory McIlroy leads the chasing pack three shots back
Rory McIlroy leads the chasing pack three shots back
Getty Images – Getty
Tiger Woods attracted huge crowds as ever on Saturday
Tiger Woods attracted huge crowds as ever on Saturday
USA TODAY Sports

The 14 times Major champion’s early blitz meant he needed a par at the 230 yards ninth to break 30 for his front nine for the second tournament in a row – after failing to do it once in the previous ten years.

But Woods sent his tee shot plunging into deep rough and missed a nine footer for par, to give the chasing pack a glimmer of hope – although he got that shot back with a birdie at the 12th.

And he also cancelled out a second bogey at the 16th with yet another birdie at the final hole, and he will take some catching on Sunday.