What used to be routine felt like a novelty to Tiger Woods.
After four consecutive birdies on his way to a five-under-par 65 at East Lake, the former No. 1 player in the world was introduced Saturday as one of the 54-hole leaders in the Tour Championship at Atlanta.
Woods raised his cap in mock celebration, and for good reason.
It has been more than a year since he has been in this position.
“I think I’ve made steady progress,” said Woods, who has only one victory this year and lost his No. 1 ranking two months ago to Vijay Singh.
Woods was tied with 50-year-old Jay Haas, who recovered from two early bogeys for a 68. They were at nine-under 201 and will be paired together today, two close friends born 22 years apart who haven’t won in a while.
Woods has gone 19 stroke-play tournaments without winning -- his longest drought since turning pro in 1996. Haas has gone 11 years and 266 tournaments since his last victory, the 1993 Texas Open.
“I definitely won’t be the favorite tomorrow,” Haas said. “But what he does shouldn’t affect what I do.”
Woods has won 30 of 32 times when he has had at least a share of the 54-hole lead. Putting together his best back-to-back rounds in four years (64-65) made him even more confident.
“I’m going to give it my best,” he said.
U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen made four consecutive birdies and had the outright lead until he faltered on the back nine. He shot 69 and was four shots behind, along with Mike Weir (67) and Stephen Ames (70).
Singh’s bid to finish the year with 10 victories -- the most since Sam Snead won 11 times in 1950 -- crashed with a round of 70 that left him 11 shots out of the lead.
Annika Sorenstam matched Laura Davies’ LPGA Tour record for consecutive victories in a tournament, closing with a seven-under 65 for her fourth consecutive Mizuno Classic title at Otsu, Japan.
Sorenstam won her seventh LPGA Tour title of the year and 55th overall, finishing at 22-under 194 for a nine-stroke victory over three players. She tied the record for consecutive victories in an event set by Davies in the 1994-97 Standard Register Ping.
After taking a four-stroke lead into the final round, Sorenstam opened an eight-shot advantage with an eagle and three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the front nine.