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Lee Westwood up two shots on Tiger Woods in British Open

Lee Westwood of England plays a shot on

Lee Westwood of England plays a shot on the 10th hole during the third round of the British Open Golf Championship at Muirfield, Scotland. (July 20, 2013) Credit: AP

GULLANE, Scotland - The comment could have been one of confidence. Or of arrogance. Tiger Woods insists he has the trophies, but going into the final round of the British Open, Lee Westwood has the lead.

On a Saturday of shifting fortunes at fast and furious Muirfield, Westwood picked up two shots on the 17th hole when he made birdie and Woods, his playing partner, took a bogey.

That powered Westwood to a 1-under-par 70 and a 54-hole total of 3-under 210, two shots ahead of Woods, who had a 72, and fellow American Hunter Mahan, who had the day's low round, a 68.

When someone asked Woods if Westwood, the best golfer in the world who's never won a major, if the leader is in perfect position to end the drought, Woods avoided a direct answer.

"I don't know," he said. "I've got 14 of these things [major victories], and I know what it takes to win it.

"He's won tournaments all over the world. He's two shots ahead, and we're going out there and compete. It's not just us two. There's a bunch of guys who have a chance to win this tournament."

One would be Adam Scott, who blew a four-shot lead down the stretch of last year's Open at Royal Lytham and St. Annes. Scott shot 70 for a 213 and is three back.

Sharing fourth at 214 are Angel Cabrera (73), first-day leader Zach Johnson (73), Ryan Moore (72) and Henrik Stenson (74). Phil Mickelson and Francesco Molinari both shot 72 for 215. Second-round leader Miguel Angel Jimenez, the ponytailed 49-year-old from Spain, soared to a 77 for 216.

The three top scorers, Westwood, Mahan and Woods -- the only ones under par -- all are coached by Sean Foley, whom Westwood hired last month after another Foley pupil, Justin Rose, won the U.S. Open.

Mahan will be in the final twosome, as he was a month ago with Mickelson at the U.S. Open. Mahan shot 75 that day and tied for second with Mickelson.

Westwood, an Englishman who played most of his golf on the European tour, moved to the United States this year in an attempt to get that elusive major. He has come in second in the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship and third in the PGA Championship.

A shot behind Woods after three holes Saturday, Westwood eagled the par-5 fifth hole to forge ahead.

The lead increased to three shots after the seventh hole, but Westwood's bogeys at No. 8 and 9, and Woods' birdie at No. 9, put both at 2 under. It stayed that way until 17.

"I played nicely," said Westwood, 40. "Short game was sharp." Joking a bit, he said: "I'm not in a high-pressure situation, because I'm going to have dinner, and I'm so good with a knife and fork now. I'll think about winning the Open at some stage . . . I've had lots of chances."

Woods has had a few since his last major victory, in 2008. He was in the lead after two rounds at the 2012 U.S. Open in San Francisco and the 2012 PGA at Kiawah Island but fell back. His performance Saturday, when he briefly was in front, brought back memories. Not for Woods, though.

"I really played well," he said. "And tomorrow, hopefully I can play a little bit better. I've been in this position before, in the past five years, and I'm in it again. There's only one guy ahead of me."

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