Daily Wrap-up: Arnold Palmer Invitational, Round 3

March 23, 2013

By PGATOUR.COM wire reports

ORLANDO, Fla. -- 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 66 to race by Justin Rose and build a two-shot lead going into the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard.

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. An eighth win would tie Sam Snead for the most wins at a single event on TOUR.

Woods, who is also in line to move to No. 1 in the FedExCup standings, 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."

A year ago, Woods was No. 18 in the world and without a TOUR win for two years. Now he is going for his third TOUR victory this year, and sixth dating to Bay Hill last season.

"It was one of my goals to get back to that position after being out of the top 50 there for a while, being hurt and having all my points come off when I couldn't play," Woods said. "That was not a fun stretch. But I had to get healthy in order to compete, and so far I've had five wins on TOUR. So I'm heading in the right direction."

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.

Fowler was only three shots behind going into the final round of The Honda Classic at the start of the Florida Swing and closed with a 74. He also had a bad Sunday at TPC Blue Monster at Trump Doral (78), though he was never in serious contention. Without knowing where his 67 would leave him at Bay Hill, he sounded determined to finish stronger.

"It was disappointing to play the way I did those two Sundays, but I felt really good with where I was at, putting myself in position to go win a golf tournament or have a good finish and kind of taking myself out of it," Fowler said. "So it was a little bit of a kick in the butt to go out there and finish off tournaments. So I'm looking forward to tomorrow and seeing if we can go do that."

Nine players were separated by three shots going into the final round, though the dynamic takes on a different vibe at Bay Hill.

Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark had a 66 and was in the group at 8-under 208, along with Jimmy Walker (70), Bill Haas (73), Ken Duke (70) and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain, who played with Woods and had a 68.

Woods narrowly beat the Spaniard a year ago in the opening round of the World Golf Championship-Accenture Match Play Championship. Fernandez-
Castano noticed a big difference one year later.

"He's definitely more comfortable," he said. "I remember at the Match Play, his routine was longer. You could see he wasn't confident with what he was doing."

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.

Woods has three eagles this week -- and six for the year -- compared with four eagles all of last season on the PGA TOUR.

"I made a few putts, and that's what I was pleased with today," Woods said.

Some of the most important putts were for par. Woods finished Friday's round with three straight bogeys, and he started Saturday with a 12-footer for par from behind the cup on the first hole. He poured that in, and it set the tone for the day.

Woods also made an 8-foot par putt on the fifth hole, and a 7-footer for par on No. 8. That was keeping him from losing ground, because there was nothing about the way Rose played that indicated he would come back to the field.

The turnaround was slow and steady, and then shockingly swift.

Rose opened with an 18-foot birdie on the first hole, a tap-in birdie on the third and then a 20-foot eagle putt from just short of the fourth green. At that point, Woods was six shots out of the lead after his two-putt birdie on the sixth. Woods followed with a 7-iron into 2 feet on the seventh, and two tough pars. He got up-and-down from the back bunker on No. 8, and then caught a huge break on the ninth when his tee shot was headed out-of-bounds and was hit a tree to stay in play.

Rose slowly began to leak. A three-putt from long range on the seventh. A missed 6-footer for par on the 10th. He still was three shots clear of Woods after a short birdie putt on the par-5 12th, and that's when it change -- and quickly.

Rose three-putted from 60 feet on the fringe at the 13th with a weak attempt at his second putt. Four groups ahead of him, Woods rolled in his 20-foot eagle putt, and just like that, they were tied. Rose compounded his problems with a shot he sliced so badly on the par-3 14th that it nearly went out-of-bounds, and he had to scramble for bogey to fall behind for the first time.

He failed to birdie the 16th, three-putted the 17th and suddenly was a forgotten figure on the leaderboard.

Bay Hill Club & Lodge: Round 3
Easiest hole Toughest hole

The par-5 16th hole was the easiest with a Saturday scoring average of 4.481.
Eagles: 5 | Birdies: 34 | Pars: 35 | Bogeys: 2 | Others: 1

The par-4 ninth hole was the toughest with a Saturday scoring average of 4.312.
Eagles: 0 | Birdies: 6 | Pars: 46 | Bogeys: 21 | Others: 4

About the leader: Tiger Woods
• Of his seven Arnold Palmer Invitational wins, Tiger Woods, this week’s defending champion, has held at least a share of the 54-lead six times. In second place in 2009, he trailed Sean O’Hair by five strokes, but won by one over O’Hair.
• Woods has converted 51 of 55 third-round leads/co-leads to victory on TOUR, including 20 of his last 21 (2009 PGA Championship). He has converted his last four third-round leads: 2009 BMW Championship, 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational, 2013 Farmers Insurance Open and 2013 WGC-Cadillac Championship. Woods’ largest 54-hole lead lost was two strokes to Y.E. Yang at the 2009 PGA Championship.
• Coming into this week, Woods was a collective 108 under in 15 professional starts at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Through three rounds, he has extended that to 119-under.
• Woods is looking for his 77th career win on TOUR. Sam Snead is the all-time leader with 82 wins.
• With a victory this week, Woods (10.3483) can overtake Rory McIlroy (11.5013) for the No. 1 position in the Official World Golf Ranking. Woods has not held the top spot since October 30, 2010
• An eighth win for Woods this week would tie the PGA TOUR record held by Sam Snead (Greater Greensboro Open) for the most wins at a single event. Snead won the Greensboro event in 1938, 1946, 1949, 1950, 1955, 1956, 1960 and 1965.
• At the conclusion of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Woods will surpass Ernie Els for most weeks in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Ranking at 789. Woods had a record run of 736 consecutive weeks in the top 10 from April 13, 1997, to May 15, 2011. He returned to the top 10 on March 25, 2012, where he has since remained.
• Woods is making his 17th start in the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week, with his lone missed cut coming in his first start of 1994. Woods has played in every event at Bay Hill since then, with the exception of 2010.
• Woods has seven wins at four different PGA TOUR events. Arnold Palmer Invitational (2000-03, 2008-09, 2012); World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational (1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009); Farmers Insurance Open (1999, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2013); World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship (1999, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2013).