Tiger Woods put himself in position to win his second straight tournament Saturday, 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 a 6-under 66 for a share of the lead with Robert Rock going into the final round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
The topic suddenly shifts from the state of his swing and his health. Woods has a 55-8 record worldwide when he has at least a share of the lead going into the final round, and a win would be the first time since August 2009 that he has won consecutive starts.
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 by the American, 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.
"It just seemed like I didn't do a lot of things right but I didn't do a lot of things wrong today, it was just very consistent," Woods said. "You know, made a couple putts here and there. I stayed away from trouble and tried to keep the ball towards the fat side of some of these pins, and I think I did a pretty good job."
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 along with Peter Hanson, who had a 64 and was two shots behind.
Also two back at 9-under 207 were Rory McIlroy, who played with Woods for the third straight day and had a 68, keeping the No. 3 player very much in the picture.
Francesco Molinari (66) and Paul Lawrie (68) also were tied for third. George Coetzee (65), James Kingston (67), overnight leader Thorbjorn Olesen (71) and Jean-Baptiste Gonnet (69) were another shot back.
The two-month break did little to slow Woods' progress. This was the first time in 20 months -- dating to The Players Championship in 2010 -- that he broke par in the opening three rounds of any tournament. It was his lowest score since a 66 in the second round of the Masters last year, and his first time atop the leaderboard in a full-field event since he won the Australian Masters in November 2009.
Stanley moves way ahead
SAN DIEGO -- Kyle Stanley overpowered Torrey Pines and opened a five-shot lead Saturday in the Farmers Insurance Open.
Stanley missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that would have set the 54-hole tournament record. He settled for a 4-under 68, a spot in the record book with Tiger Woods, and great position as he goes after his first PGA Tour win Sunday. He was at 18-under 198, matching the record set by Woods in 1998.
John Huh, a PGA Tour rookie out of Q-school, also had a 68 and was at 13-under 203, along with John Rollins.