With key par saves early in his round and an eagle for the third straight day at Bay Hill, Woods seized control Saturday with a 6-under 66 to race by Justin Rose and build a two-shot lead going into the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Woods was at 11-under 205, two shots ahead of Rickie Fowler (67), John Huh (71) and Rose, who at one point was six shots ahead of Woods. Rose had a 39 on the back nine and wound up with a 72.
Woods hasn't been No. 1 in the world ranking since the last week of October 2010. That can change Sunday with a victory on a Bay Hill course where he already has won seven times, and from a position where he hardly ever loses. Woods is 41-2 on the PGA Tour when he has the outright lead going into the final round.
Rose had a three-shot lead on the back nine until he crumbled, making three bogeys over the last six holes.
Fowler dropped only one shot on a muggy day with a short burst of showers, closing with a par from the back bunker on the 18th. The last time Fowler and Woods were paired together in the final round was at the Memorial, where Woods closed with a 67 to win and Fowler had an 84.
Woods, who already had won twice this year, has a clearer vision of what he's doing and where the ball is going. He surged ahead with a 6-iron into 12 feet on the 15th for birdie, and another 6-iron into 20 feet on the 16th for an eagle that put him atop the leaderboard. He can tie a PGA Tour record for most victories at one tournament. Sam Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times.
CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP)—Beatriz Recari drove the green on the 285-yard 16th hole to set up a 4-foot eagle putt and finished with a 3-under 69 for a two-stroke lead in the Kia Classic.
Recari, the 25-year-old Spaniard who won her lone LPGA Tour title in 2010, had an 11-under 205 total at Aviara Golf Club. Hall of Famer Karrie Webb was second after a 70. Winless since the 2011 Founders Cup in Phoenix, Webb dropped strokes with bogeys on Nos. 13, 17 and 18.
Paula Creamer and I.K. Kim were three shots back. Creamer had a 71, and Kim shot 70.
Stacy Lewis, playing her first event since taking the No. 1 spot in the world from Yani Tseng with a victory last week in Phoenix, was four strokes back after a 69. Trying to win her third straight tournament, Lewis had an eagle on the par-5 eighth.
MISSISSIPPI GULF RESORT CLASSIC
SAUCIER, Miss. (AP)—Corey Pavin birdied his first six holes and finished with a 5-under 67 to join Bernhard Langer, Roger Chapman and Joe Daley atop the leaderboard after the second round of the Champions Tour's Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic.
Pavin took advantage of Fallen Oak's soft greens in ideal windless conditions.
Langer had a 65, Chapman shot 67, and Daley had a 66.
Defending champion Fred Couples also had a good day, shooting a 66 to stay within striking distance at two strokes off the lead. It's a crowded leaderboard, with 14 players within three strokes of the lead.
The round was delayed for more than an hour because of afternoon thunderstorms.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP)—Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat led the Malaysian Open at 11 under when third-round play was suspended because of thunderstorms at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
Kiradech completed only two holes in the third round before play was stopped for the day South Africa's Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, was a stroke back, also after two holes.
Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington was tied for third at 9 under. He played four holes.
Third-ranked Luke Donald missed the cut, completing a second-round 73 on Saturday to finish at 3 over.
The tournament is sanctioned by the European and Asian tours.