PALM HARBOR — Jim Furyk has heard the question many times in the past two years: "Hey, Jim. When are you going to win another tournament?"
With one more steady round on Innisbrook's Copperhead Course, he might not have to hear that question for a while.
Furyk distanced himself from the Transitions Championship field Saturday, shooting bogey-free 4-under 67 in the third round to reach 11-under 202. He has a three-shot lead over four players, including a pair of two-time winners at Innisbrook, K.J. Choi and Retief Goosen, as well as 2005 champion Carl Pettersson. The fourth player is Bubba Watson, who has not won a PGA Tour tournament in his five-year career.
Furyk's most recent tour victory came at the 2007 Canadian Open. He has won 13 times, including the 2003 U.S. Open. With plenty of security on the tour, the only thing that interests Furyk, 39, at this stage of his career is winning.
"It's not really a monkey-off-my-back thing like I can't wait to not answer that question again," Furyk said. "It's more about me wanting to win a golf tournament. That's what we play and practice for, and I haven't been able to do that in over two years. It's disappointing. This game will test and try your patience. If (today) is the day, then great. If not, I'll plug on."
Not many players have plugged along like Furyk has this week. He has only one bogey in 54 holes and has played under par each day. He made his move on the back nine, which traditionally yields few birdies.
Furyk birdied the par-5 11th, then dropped a 32-foot birdie putt on 12 to take a two-shot lead. The lead grew to three when he birdied the par-3 15th.
"I think the back nine had a lot to do with spreading out the field a little bit," Furyk said. "Those pins were in some pretty greasy spots."
Second-round leader Padraig Harrington did not make a move Saturday. He shot 1-over 72 and is four shots back. Steve Stricker, No. 2 in the world golf rankings, didn't get into contention, either. He shot even 71 and is five back.
Of the contenders at 8 under, Choi made the biggest move. He fired 67 and vaulted into a tie for second. Choi won this tournament in 2002 and 2006. Goosen, Watson and Pettersson each shot 1-under 70 to stay close.
"It was a very up-and-down round," Goosen said. "I really struggled with the wind all day, so I lost a bit of confidence with my iron play. I just knew I had to keep hanging in there."
Watson seemed to be all over the course, but when the dust cleared, he was still on the first page of the leaderboard.
"It was rough," Watson said. "The first shot I hooked, hit a tree on the second shot. Shanked one on eight and made bogey. And then I hit a toe-hook going for the green on 14. But all in all it was a great day. One under (today) might be a great day.''
Tee times have been moved up because of bad weather approaching in the afternoon. Inclement weather is sure to make conditions even tougher. And it has been two years since a Transitions Championship winner has finished double digits under par.
Furyk hopes to break that trend — as well as his winless streak.
"I feel like my confidence is growing and building," Furyk said. "It may not be exactly where I want it or on top of the world, but I feel like I'm climbing back up the mountain."
1. Jim Furyk 67 68 67 202 -11
T2. K.J. Choi 69 69 67 205 -8
T2. Retief Goosen 67 68 70 205 -8
T2. Bubba Watson 70 65 70 205 -8
T2. Carl Pettersson 67 68 70 205 -8
T6. Luke Donald 71 68 67 206 -7
T6. Jeff Maggert 67 69 70 206 -7
T6. Padraig Harrington 69 65 72 206 -7