Tiger Woods takes three-shot lead at Tour Championship

McIlroy made seven birdies but blotted his card with a pair of bogeys and one double

Ryder Cup hostilities broke out a week early at the Tour Championship on Friday with Tiger Woods and world number one Justin Rose sharing the halfway lead after a pulsating second round in Atlanta. He has won 42 tournaments that he led at the end of the third round, including 23 in which he had a lead of three shots or more. The last time he was in this position was when he won the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the most recent of his 79 PGA Tour victories.

Rose kept himself in contention after recovering from bogeys at the first two holes to post a two-under-par round of 68.

By Woods's side on Sunday will be McIlroy, who has dreamed since he was a teenager of playing alongside his idol in the final round with a title on the line. He has flirted with victory this year, surging late to finish second at last month's PGA Championship and posting three other top-sixes since the start of July, but never before has he been so within reach of ending his hard, complicated drought. I've been playing well throughout the entire summer, just piecing it together, building, building and building. He finished two back of Brooks Koepka.

The TOUR Championship, the final of the four events in the FedExCup Playoffs, is contested at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, GA.

Tony Finau and Dustin Johnson, the other top-5 seeds who only have to win to claim the FedEx Cup, have ground to make up on the weekend. He closed the front nine by leaving right an 11-foot putt for par and birdied just once on the back nine, a three on the par-four 12th set up by a 143-yard approach that stuck within eight feet.

"All I can do is worry about myself, " McIlroy said.

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"Simple math says that if I play a clean card, the guys behind me have to shoot 67 to force it into extras", Woods said.

He holed another lengthy putt on the fourth while his birdies on the sixth and seventh came after impressive shots out of bunkers. As much as he's done to get to this point, posting six top-10s this year in a comeback season that has defied belief, Woods has struggled to put four complete rounds together, and simply not been in this good of a position. His flop shot didn't get up the hill and rolled back toward him, and his next pitch was a bump-and-run played to perfection that kept him from another double bogey.

"I got off to a nice start and made some nice putts", Woods said. "But I thought I could sneak it up there and get up on the upslope and have a good angle in there, and it just didn't work out".

And so now the tournament heads to Sunday with a familiar focus, all eyes and hopes and narratives trained tightly on Woods and his crimson shirt.

Justin Rose, who played with Woods on Saturday, is ranked No. 1 in the world for a reason.

"The crowds were electric because of it, " Rose said. Last year, he wasn't sure if he'd ever play again.

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