Tiger Woods is one round away from returning to No. 1 in the world.
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-par 66 to race by Justin Rose and build a two-shot lead going into the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.
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 rankings 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.
‘‘Just because I've won here doesn’t ensure that I'm going to win the tournament,’’ Woods said. ‘‘The conditions are different. The game might be different.
“But the objective is still to put myself in position to win the golf tournament and somehow get it done on Sunday. Over the course of my career, I've done a pretty decent job of that.’’
Rose had a three-shot lead on the back nine until he crumbled, making three bogeys over the last six holes.He didn’t even make it into the final group.
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.
Nine players were separated by three shots going into the final round, though the dynamic takes on a different vibe at Bay Hill. Woods can tie a PGA Tour record for most victories at one tournament. Sam Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times.
LPGA — 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 in Carlsbad, Calif. Hall of Famer Karrie Webb was second, and Paula Creamer and I.K. Kim were three shots back.
Champions — 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 Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic in Saucier, Miss.
European — Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat led the Malaysian Open at 11 under when third-round play was suspended because of another series of thunderstorms at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.