By Steve Keating
DORAL, Florida, March 8 (Reuters) - Tiger Woods mounted one of his patented third round charges on Saturday, firing a six-under 66 to storm into contention for an unprecedented eighth WGC-Cadillac Championship.
With the punishing winds that created havoc on Friday giving way to calmer conditions, the Blue Monster course lost some of its bite and an emboldened Woods seized his chance.
Woods carded the low round of the week to head into the final day at one-under-par and right in the mix.
The American arrived at the Trump National Doral resort with his fitness in question and his reign as world number one under threat from Australian Adam Scott.
After pulling out of the final round of the Honda Classic with back spasms, the defending WGC-Cadillac champion delayed his arrival and displayed worrying form in an opening round 76.
But after familiarising himself with the redesigned Blue Monster layout, Woods once again looked right at home on what is one of his favourite venues.
The old course had been a happy hunting ground for Woods, who claimed four of his seven WGC-Cadillac titles on the Blue Monster.
"It was nice to get back in the tournament again," smiled Woods. "I held it together yesterday, a long day, a long, tough day and that gave me a chance today.
"I figured, hey, I'm only six back, that's definitely doable, especially with the conditions and how difficult this golf course is playing.
"If I just get back to even par for the tournament, I'll be right there and I did one better."
Trailling the leaders by six strokes when the day began, the 14-time major winner quickly mounted his charge with birdies at the first and third holes.
After a bogey at the fourth, the world number one continued to claw his way up the leader with two more birdies at five and nine.
His rally continued to pick up pace through the turn with back-to-back birdies at 11 and another at 12 that brought out a patented Woods' fist bump.
A bogey at the par-3 13th was only a hiccup as Woods continued his push up the leaderboard, draining a 35-foot birdie on 15 followed by another at 16 that put him under par for the first time this week.
His comeback was anchored by a red-hot putter that had been stone cold in the opening round.
After rolling in a massive 91-foot birdie putt on Friday, Woods continued to dazzle with the putter, two of his eight birdies on Saturday coming from long range - 22 and 35 feet.
"I got my speed right and I felt like I hit the ball a little better and left myself in good spots," said Woods.
"Yesterday, you've got to toss it out the window because speed wise, it's a totally different golf course.
"Now it's playing more of like a normal course.
"But being a new golf course and as firm and as fast as it was, it got difficult, and today it's so much more playable." (Reporting by Steve Keating; editing by Julian Linden)