Adam Scott has Claret Jug within reach after Tiger Woods fails to mount charge

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Adam Scott has Tiger Woods' old caddie, his old coach, and, some say, the grace of swing that Tiger last showed five years ago.

Come Sunday evening, he also may hold the rights to the major title that Woods thought could provide his first major since anyone in golf gave much thought to fire hydrants and Ambien, and get his crusade of dominance back on track.

This Open Championship looked tantalizingly headed for a final-day, final-pairing showdown between Scott and Woods, with a fascinating subplot in the form of smirking caddie Steve Williams poured into the mix.

Instead it will be Scott, four shots clear and seeking his first touch of one of the sport's most cherished four trophies, who will square off with Graeme McDowell; while Woods sits a further shot back, lurking rather than prowling, having let slip the chance to set up an 18-hole punch-up that would have surely made for compulsive viewing.

How sweet it would have been. An acrimonious sporting divorce followed by the subsequent fallout, highlighted by Williams' graceless celebration of Scott's victory at the WGC Bridgestone last year followed by his utterly lamentable racist comments at a caddies' dinner, would have made the clash as much about the New Zealander on the bag as the 32-year-old Australian with club in hand.

[Related: British Open: Bubba Watson wastes a big opportunity during Round 3]

Perhaps it would have ignited the fire within Woods, rolled back the lost years and tears and rekindled the ruthlessness of old. The absence of that, at least to its previous extent, was on painful display as Woods crept rather than stormed through the final holes to drop from second to third.

Make no mistake, this event is not over, although Scott is firmly in pole position. Yet it is Graeme McDowell now, not Woods, who lies closest to the leader and with the chance to impose his will on Scott's psyche on the final afternoon.

"I will be looking the guy in the eye that I need to be looking in the eye," said McDowell, referring to the importance of being in the final group, a position he also occupied at the U.S. Open before falling to Webb Simpson.

Woods knows all about the value of starting last, too, having never coming from behind on Day 4 to win a major championship, even in those days of destruction that are now a fading memory.

"I just found it a little bit more difficult today for some reason," Woods said. "Right now I am five back and I got to go out there and post a good round. Adam is in a pretty good spot, a lot of it depends what he does."

[Also: Anirban Lahiri makes hole-in-one at No. 9]

Sunday promises some intrigue, with the wind expected to blow in off the coastline of the North-West of England and push up the scoring numbers. That assumes of course, that the forecasters are right, although believing their predictions may be folly after the forecast rain failed to materialize for three straight days.

Scott insists he doesn't care either way, and he has the look of a man who knows the greatest moment of his career in within grasp and is comfortable with it. His form since working with Williams and swing coach Butch Harmon has been among his best.

"I am feeling great right now," Scott said. "I have never been in this position in a major before so I am really excited about it. It doesn't matter to me who I am playing with, or if the wind blows, or anything else.

"Steve comes into that as well. It is a team effort, and he has been great. We are working well together, we think we are on the same page, which makes things easier, and he is a great motivator for me."

Scott flirted with disaster on 17, finding himself in one of those evil and sodden bunkers, before sticking it effortlessly to within inches of the hole and saving par, just like he had on the first.

He and Williams looked thoroughly at ease with each other, laughing and joking after perfect drives and the occasional hook alike. A reminder perhaps, that Scott has all those components that Woods had when all was well. Now he is 18 solid holes away from taming a Tiger and claiming his finest prize.

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