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 as three days.
Just like that, Woods was atop the leaderboard, a familiar spot for him on this golf course. He finished off his round of 6-under 66 with two pars, and when Rose lost energy and stumbled over the final hour, Woods had a two-shot lead.
And that’s a daunting view for everyone chasing him.
Woods 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,” Woods said. “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 was at 11-under 205, two shots ahead of Rickie Fowler (67), John Huh (71) and Rose, who through four holes Saturday was six shots ahead of Woods. Rose had a 39 on the back nine and wound up with a 72.
Rose had a three-shot lead on the back nine until he crumbled, making three bogeys over the last six holes. He 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,” Rose said. “I wasn’t too worried whether I was two ahead or two behind. The real day is tomorrow. Obviously, you don’t want to give Tiger too many shots.
“The back nine was a shame, but today means nothing until tomorrow plays out. So hopefully, he doesn’t go get hot tomorrow and then today is just a memory.”
Rose didn’t even make it into the final group.
Fowler dropped only one shot on a muggy day with a short burst of showers, closing with a par from the back bunker on the 18th. He will play with Woods in the final round for the first time since the Memorial, where Woods closed with a 67 to win and Fowler had an 84.
Fowler was only three shots behind going into the final round of the Honda Classic at the start of the Florida swing and closed with a 74.