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Woods forges two clear at Doral

Written by: Staff
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MIAMI, Mar 5 (Reuters) Tiger Woods, lifted by three straight birdies after the turn, took a two-stroke lead in his defence of the Doral Championship here.

The world number one fired a four-under-par 68 in the third round yesterday amid bright sunshine at Doral's Blue Monster Course to break clear of a congested leaderboard.

Woods, who overhauled Phil Mickelson in a gripping last-day duel for the title 12 months ago, mixed six birdies with a double-bogey at the par-three ninth to finish on 17-under 199.

Sweden's Daniel Chopra holed a 60-foot birdie putt at the last for a 68 to share second place with American Rich Beem, who carded a 69.

''Right now everything is clicking for me,'' Beem, winner of the 2002 US PGA Championship at Hazeltine, told reporters.

''I'm in control of everything I'm doing out there and I'm rolling the ball unbelievably well on the greens.'' PGA Tour rookie Camilo Villegas of Colombia double-bogeyed the last after pushing his tee shot right behind a banyan tree and had to settle for a 71 and a tie for fourth at 14 under.

Level with Villegas was Sony Open champion David Toms, who collected four birdies and two bogeys on his way to a 70.

Mickelson, who played with Woods in the final pairing, was a further stroke back after a 72, having run up a bogey at the par-four 18th where he found water with his approach into the green.

Woods, one of four players atop the leaderboard at the start of the day, tightened his grip on the tournament by picking up shots at the first, second and eighth.

Although he double-bogeyed the ninth after missing the green off the tee, he recovered with a three-birdie run from the 13th.

After hitting his tee shot to within six feet of the flag on 13, he rolled in putts from 10 and eight feet on 14 and 15 to regain a one-shot cushion at 17 under.

His lead doubled when Villegas dropped shots at the last.

Among the other big names, American David Love III shot a 67 to finish at 12 under with world number four Ernie Els a further two shots back after carding a 69.

Sixth-ranked Sergio Garcia shot a 71 to lie at seven under, one better than world number two Vijay Singh who signed for a 70.

REUTERS DH RAI0524

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