Lee Westwood was leading the British Open by two strokes after the third round at Muirfield on Saturday. The 40-year-old Englishman fired a 70 for a three-under total of 210 to lead by two from Tiger Woods, who had a 72, and Hunter Mahan, who had a 68, equalling the best round of the day.
They were the only three players to remain under par after 54 holes. Alone on level par was Masters Champion Adam Scott of Australia (70), and a further stroke back came a quartet of Swede Henrik Stenson (74), Angel Cabrera of Argentina (73), and Americans Zach Johnson (73) and Ryan Moore (72).
Still well in contention were four-time major winner Phil Mickelson, who had a 72 to stand at two over, level with Francesco Molinari (72), with Sergio Garcia (68), Brandt Snedeker (69) and Jason Day (72) among those perched on three over.
Defending champion Ernie Els had a 70 to get to five over. Earlier, Woods’ driver made its first appearance of the week, but it was two shots from the longest club in Westwood’s which helped ignite the 142nd Open Championship.
Woods had employed a conservative strategy over the first two days at a parched Muirfield and it looked to be paying dividends when he briefly moved into the outright lead early in the third round.
But the world number one was outshone on the fifth hole as playing partner Westwood made a brilliant eagle to boost his chances of a first major title in dramatic style.
Both players had split the fairway on the 559-yard par five, Woods by using a driver for the first time, with Westwood then hitting his driver again and getting a good bounce to leave his ball just short of the green.
The 40-year-old, putting superbly since working with 1991 Open champion Ian Baker-Finch, was faced with a testing putt from around 35 feet but promptly holed it for an eagle three.
And, when he followed that with a birdie from five feet at the seventh as Woods bogeyed, the Ryder Cup star suddenly had a three-shot lead.