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Tiger leads Palmer Invite at Bay Hill heading into final round

Times wires

ORLANDO — The shot looked daunting to Tiger Woods, and so did the view from the bunker behind the eighth green at Bay Hill. Across a small lake was a large scoreboard that showed Justin Rose off to such a hot start that Woods was five shots behind and trying not to lose ground.

Two shots and two putts changed everything Saturday in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Woods hit what he called his best shot of the third round, a 6-iron from 196 yards that settled 12 feet below the hole on No. 15 to set up a birdie. Minutes later he hit another 6-iron from 183 yards to 20 feet and slammed his fist toward the hole when he made eagle, his third in three days.

Just like that, Woods was atop the leaderboard, a familiar spot for him on this course. The defending champion finished off his round of 6-under 66 with two pars, and when Rose lost energy and stumbled over the final hour to finish at par, Woods had a two-shot lead over Rose and two others at 11-under 205.

That's a daunting view for everyone chasing Woods. He 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," said Woods, who has won at Bay Hill seven times. "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."

Woods' seven Bay Hill wins are tied for second-most on one course in tour history with his seven at Doral, ESPN said. The most wins on one course is eight — by Woods at Torrey Pines.

Also with a win today, Woods can displace Rory McIlroy as No. 1 in the world rankings. Woods hasn't been No. 1 since the last week of October 2010.

Rose, tied for second with Rickie Fowler (67) and John Huh (71), was six shots ahead of Woods through four holes. He had a three-shot lead on the back nine until he crumbled, making three bogeys over the last six holes. He shot 39 on the back nine.

Rose attributed that to a lack of energy, perhaps from the muggy conditions, but didn't mind his position.

"I just wanted to go out and play a good round of golf," he said. "I wasn't too worried whether I was two ahead or two behind. The real day is (today). Obviously, you don't want to give Tiger too many shots. The back nine was a shame, but (Saturday) means nothing until (today) plays out."

Fowler dropped only one shot on a muggy day with a short burst of showers, closing with par from the back bunker on 18.

Huh, 22, was the tour's rookie of the year last year. He has one career win, last year's Mayakoba Golf Classic. He missed the cut at last week's Tampa Bay Championship at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor.

LPGA: Beatriz Recari kept her lead at the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, Calif., with 3-under 69 that put her one stroke ahead of Karie Webb (70) at 11-under 205. Tampa resident Kristy McPherson (69) was 1 under.

Champions: Corey Pavin birdied his first six holes and finished with 5-under 67 to join Bernhard Langer (65), Roger Chapman (67) and Joe Daley (66) atop the leaderboard at 8-under 136 after the second round of the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic in Saucier. Esteban Toledo (65), Tom Pernice (65) and Gene Sauers (66) were a stroke behind

Tiger leads Palmer Invite at Bay Hill heading into final round 03/23/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 23, 2013 9:58pm]

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