ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Tiger Woods has put himself in position to win his second consecutive tournament, and this one would leave little doubt about which direction his game is going.
He finally won two months ago against an 18-man field in California.
On Saturday, against the strongest field golf has seen in at least three months, Woods shot 6-under-par 66 for a share of the lead with Robert Rock going into the final round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
Woods has a 55-8 record worldwide when he has at least a share of the lead going into the final round.
More than being atop the leaderboard, it’s how Woods got there.
“It’s fun when I’m able to control the golf ball like I did,” Woods said.
There wasn’t a lot of fist-pumping from Woods, who traded drama for consistency, racking up six birdies in a bogey-free round. It was a memorable performance mostly for his ability to hit fairways, tame the par 5s and sink clutch putts – including a 6-footer for birdie on the final hole.
Woods finished at 11-under 205. Rock, at No. 117 in the world, birdied his final two holes to join Woods in the last group.
Rock, who got his first European Tour win last year in Italy in a playoff with Sergio Garcia, admitted he was star-struck at the prospect of teeing off alongside Woods, calling him “the best guy I’ve ever seen play golf.”
Woods and Rock will be joined in the final pairing by Peter Hanson, who had 64 and was two shots behind.
Also two back at 9-under 207 were Rory McIlroy, who played with Woods for the third consecutive day and had 68, keeping the No. 3 player in the picture.
Woods refused to talk about his chances of winning, saying there were too many players within striking distance.
“There’s a ton of guys with a chance to win,” Woods said. “I can’t go out there and shoot even par and expect to win. I’ve got to go out there and go get it.”
PGA TOUR: In San Diego, former Clemson golfer Kyle Stanley overpowered the South Course on his way to 4-under-par 68 that gave him a five-shot lead going into the final round at the Farmers Insurance Open.
“For some reason, I’ve always been long,” said Stanley. “But if you take a golf course like this where you’re hitting 7-irons into par 5s and short irons into long par 4s, it definitely helps.”
It never hurt Woods, a seven-time winner as a pro at Torrey Pines.
Stanley chose to lay up on the par-5 18th with the large pond in front, and spun a wedge near the hole to about 4 feet. About his only regret in the third round was missing that putt. One last birdie would have broken the 54-hole tournament record that Woods set in 1998, before Rees Jones beefed up the South Course to 7,698 yards for the 2008 U.S. Open.
Stanley is at 18-under 198, and has a five-shot lead over John Huh and John Rollins as he goes after his first PGA Tour title.
Stanley can’t recall ever having a lead this large, which can be troublesome if looked upon as only an opportunity to fail.
“I think the biggest thing is you can’t necessarily go out there and try to protect it,” Stanley said.
Stanley wouldn’t look ahead to today and what a win might mean – including a trip to the Masters Tournament.
No one was giving him the trophy, either.
“If a guy had a 10- or 12-shot lead, you’d feel pretty comfortable,” Rollins said after his 68. “But when you’re four or five shots, sometimes it’s hard to play with a big lead because you get kind of relaxed and everything else.”