Tiger leaps into hunt at Doral with sizzling 66
Tiger Woods plays a bunker shot on the 16th hole during the third round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral on March 8, 2014 in Florida - by Chris Trotman
Woods stood on one-under 215 after 54 holes, one behind clubhouse leader Jason Dufner during the third round and three off the pace of Patrick Reed, who had five holes to finish.
A week after pulling out of the final round of the US PGA Honda Classic with back spasms, the 38-year-old American displayed the form that has made him a 14-time major winner but has been seen inconsistently of late.
"I played well," Woods said. "I got off to a good start. I held it together and made some putts."
But Woods said he still fights twinges of back pain even in a good round.
"It's a little bit better," Woods said. "Each day it gets sore and progressively more sore as the day goes on."
Woods, who has won the event at Doral's Blue Monster seven times, did not play a practice round after days of treatment to ease his back pain, reduced only to chipping and putting practice and a walk of the course on Wednesday.
Given Woods' record at Doral, that would not normally be a huge problem, but new owner Donald Trump spent the past year revamping the layout and many holes were completely new to Woods and the elite field.
Woods said "it is really hard" to know how to read the greens in only two days, but after an opening 76 and a 73 in round two, Woods mastered them.
Woods sank a four-foot birdie putt at the par-5 opening hole. He birdied the third with a 13-foot putt, missed a four-foot putt to bogey the par-3 fourth, then answered by making an 11-foot birdie putt at the fifth.
After a birdie at the par-5 eighth, Woods added back-to-back birdies at 11 and 12, sinking putts of 16 and 22 feet respectively.
Woods found a bunker at the par-3 13th and took bogey but responded with a 35-foot birdie putt at the par-3 15th that brought back the Woods fist pump celebration of his glory days.
"It went right to left and a little faster than it showed," Woods said. "I was happy to pull it off."
Woods added a birdie at the 16th and closed with back-to-back pars, including a testy 10-footer at 17.