Sizzling 66 puts charging Woods in the mix

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland, July 21 (Reuters) - Three-time champion Tiger Woods rolled back the years and roared into contention at the British Open with a sizzling third-round 66 at Carnoustie on Saturday.

On a day perfect for low scoring, Woods let rip with his driver and tucked into the birdie buffet, briefly grabbing a share of the lead -- something the American had not done since the 2013 Masters.

His five-under 66 was his lowest round at the British Open since he romped to victory at Hoylake in 2006.

"That was good. I played well today. I really did. I hit a lot of good shots," Woods told reporters.

He has been plagued by injuries and personal problems including a marriage breakup since winning the last of his 14 majors a decade ago.

"Given what happened the last few years, I didn't know if that would ever happen again, but here I am with a chance coming Sunday in a major championship. It's going to be fun."

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CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 19: Tiger Woods of the United States walks down the 17th hole during the first round of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 19, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
US golfer Dustin Johnson lines up a putt on the 17th green on day one of The 147th Open golf Championship at Carnoustie, Scotland on July 19, 2018. (Photo by Andy BUCHANAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images)
CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 19: Hideki Matsuyama of Japan plays his shot from the 13th tee during the first round of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 19, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 19: Tom Lehman of the United States chips in from the side of the 17th green during round one of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 19, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)
Sweden's Henrik Stenson reacts to his iron shot on the 17th tee during his first round on day one of The 147th Open golf Championship at Carnoustie, Scotland on July 19, 2018. (Photo by Andy BUCHANAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images)
CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 19: Tiger Woods of the United States plays his shot from the 13th tee during the first round of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 19, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
ANGUS, SCOTLAND - JULY 19: Fans watch Russell Knox of Scotland hitting a tee shot on the fourth hole during the first round of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 19, 2018 in Angus, Scotland. (Photo by Stan Badz/R&A/R&A/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)
CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 19: Tiger Woods of the United States plays his second shot on 15th during round one of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 19, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)
CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 19: Jordan Spieth of the United States plays his second shot on the 15th hole during the first round of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 19, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
US golfer Kevin Kisner (L) and US golfer Zach Johnson mark their balls on the 17th green during their third rounds on day 3 of The 147th Open golf Championship at Carnoustie, Scotland on July 21, 2018. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 21: Jordan Spieth of the United States plays his second shot on the 18th hole during the third round of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 21, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 22: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts to his eagle putt on the 14th hole green during the final round of the Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 22, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 20: Tiger Woods of the United States plays his second shot on the 2nd hole during round two of the Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 20, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)
CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 22: Tiger Woods of the United States plays his shot from the third tee during the final round of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 22, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 18: Tiger Woods of the United States tosses his ball in the air on the driving range during previews to the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 18, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Warren Little/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)
CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 19: Tiger Woods of the United States hits a bunker shot on the 14th hole during the first round of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 19, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 19: Hideki Matsuyama of Japan drops his club after a shot on the sixth hole during the first round of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 19, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 19: Tiger Woods of the United States plays a shot on the tenth hole during the first round of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 19, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays out a bunker on the 1st fairway during round one of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 19, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)
CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND - JULY 17: Dustin Johnson of the United States tees off during previews to the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 17, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
GULLANE, SCOTLAND - JULY 14: Jens Dantorp of Sweden takes his tee shot on hole eighteen during day three of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at Gullane Golf Course on July 14, 2018 in Gullane, Scotland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
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Few golfers have ever captivated a crowd quite like Woods in his pomp and it was like watching a tape from years gone by as he pulled the driver out of the bag and went on the attack.

Huge crowds swarmed across the Scottish links trying to catch a glimpse of the 42-year-old's barnstorming charge.

He began the day on level par after two steady rounds, tied for 29th. Six birdies propelled him rapidly upwards.

Woods, playing at his first British Open since 2015 when he missed the cut at St Andrews, began his charge with a birdie at the fourth and picked up another shot at the sixth.

When a 25-foot birdie putt trundled across the ninth green and into the cup it seemed like something special was brewing.

"You're the man, Tiger, and everyone knows it," yelled one fan standing next to another in an orange and black tiger costume.

Feeding off the electrifying atmosphere, Woods sent a laser-guided second shot to the 10th that left him a tap-in birdie, then at the 11th he rolled a 95-foot eagle putt to five feet and tapped home to gain another shot.

It could have been even better. Woods dropped his putter in disbelief when a birdie attempt refused to drop on 13, but he took another at the par-five 14th and the leaderboards around the course suddenly showed Woods on top on six-under with a clutch of Americans including defending champion Jordan Spieth.

He did not stay there long, however. At the treacherous par-three 16th his tee-shot just failed to stay on the green and he three-putted.

Woods played his "one bad swing" at the 18th, but lady luck intervened to keep his ball out of Barry Burn and in thick rough that at least gave him a shot.

He laid up, then speared a majestic 150-yard wedge to within three feet.

It sounded like a Woods victory march as he strode to the green to complete a memorable round.

"It's been a few years since I've felt like this," Woods said. "I'm right there. I've got a chance at this, which is great. We'll find out what the lead is by day's end. At least I know that I will be there with a chance."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman Editing by Christian Radnedge and John Stonestreet)

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