PALM HARBOR — At 30 years old and with all of two PGA Tour victories on his resume, Justin Rose is the wily veteran on top of a crowded Transitions Championship leaderboard.
Rose fired a second-straight 6-under 65 Saturday for a three-round total of 13-under 200.
The Englishman held a one-shot lead over Webb Simpson (67) and Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge (66). Scott Stallings (66) and Gary Woodland (67) were two back.
Nick Watney (65), Brandt Snedeker (67) and second-round co-leaders Garrett Willis (70) and Chris Couch (70) closed three shots back.
With 14 players within five shots of the lead and with another day of ideal conditions forecast, today's final round should be a sprint to the finish. But there isn't a lot of experience chasing Rose.
While Watney won last week's WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, the four players within two shots are winless on the PGA Tour. Rose won twice on the tour last year and has six international victories.
Rose said he feels less pressure being in contention on Sunday now that he has a few wins.
"It's nice because every time you get in contention now, you don't have to field the question of whether this is going to be the time you break through," Rose said. "When you do deal with those questions, it makes getting into contention early in the week a very long week. It's nice to not have to fend that one off."
Rose got into contention by scorching the front nine in 31. He opened with birdie on No. 1 then rattled off four straight birdies on Nos. 4-7. His only back-nine birdie came on No. 18 when he made a 6-footer to cap a bogey-free round.
"The first 27 holes of the tournament I had to be really patient," Rose said. "I knew I was playing well, but I wasn't getting much out of it. Obviously the next combined 18 holes went pretty hot. I had to be patient on the last nine holes, but this is a course that it's easy to be patient on."
De Jonge worked his way up the leaderboard with a bogey-free round as well. He started the day two shots off the lead and got to within a shot thanks to a hot back nine. De Jonge, 30, birdied the 10th and 11th holes and ended his day with birdie at 18. He has shot two straight 66s.
Like Rose, de Jonge has been in position to win. Unlike Rose, he has not finished the deal.
"I think looking back on past experiences will help," de Jonge said. "Just what I've learned from playing in the last group and having been around the lead in previous occasions will help. I'm just going to take that and try to stay within myself."
Simpson, 25, has been on the PGA Tour full time since only 2009. His best finish was a tie for fourth. He managed to hang around Saturday despite two bogeys on the back nine. He rallied with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17.
"This is what we dream about and practice for," Simpson said. "To have a chance on Sunday. I'm looking forward to the challenge."
They are all looking up at Rose. His best PGA finish this year was a tie for ninth at the Northern Trust Open.
And Rose has had a whirlwind two weeks. After playing in the WGC tournament at Doral, he played in the Tavistock Cup on Monday and Tuesday in Orlando before coming to Innisbrook.
His plan for today is to take things as they come.
"My goal is to be as good as I can be," Rose said. "If that means I shoot 65 and win by five, then that's a good day. And if it means that I have to gut it out and be as good as I can be on a scratchy day and win by one, I'm fine with that. I don't know what (today) holds."