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Woods finishes with a flourish

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods did his confidence a power of good with three late birdies as he finished his first week back in golf with a level-par 70 in Akron today.

Out of contention for an eighth WGC-Bridgestone Invitational title, Woods fell outside the top 50 with a miserable run of holes in the middle of his final round.

But the former world number one then had a hat-trick of birdies from the 15th, holing putts of 13, three and 15 feet, to return to one over par.

That was 14 adrift of joint leaders Adam Scott and Japanese teenager Ryo Ishikawa - he birdied two of the first three holes to catch the Australian - but with the USPGA Championship coming up this week fit-again Woods could take comfort from some of the players he beat in his first event for 12 weeks.

They included great rival Phil Mickelson after he double-bogeyed the last for a 72 and three-over aggregate, while Paul Casey was two over, Padraig Harrington six over, Graeme McDowell nine over and both Open champion Darren Clarke and Ian Poulter 12 over.

Justin Rose and Simon Dyson finished one ahead of Woods, though, after closing strongly with rounds of 67 and 68 respectively. That represented a great comeback by last Sunday's Irish Open winner Dyson. He was joint last with Clarke after an opening 77, but broke par in the remaining three rounds.

As for the battle for the third World championship event of the season, 19-year-old Ishikawa was disappointed only to birdie the long second after hitting his second shot to five feet, but he followed it with a 12-foot putt.

That lifted him alongside overnight leader Scott, who also birdied the second despite visiting two bunkers. They were two in front of Rickie Fowler and Scott's compatriot Jason Day, who was part of the lead with a three-foot opening putt, but three-putted the next for a bogey six.

England's world number one Luke Donald was three back, having pitched to five feet on the first, but Scot Martin Laird slipped four behind. He three-putted the first, birdied the second, but then could not get up and down from the rough on the fourth.

Rory McIlroy came back from an opening bogey with two birdies in the next three to stand eight under and joint ninth, while Lee Westwood birdied the second, third and ninth in a fine outward 32, but still had six shots to make up.