Tiger Woods watching the path of his tee shot on the 16th hole at Bay Hill in Orlando on Saturday.
ORLANDO: Tiger Woods finished atop the
leaderboard at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Saturday, leaving him
one round away from winning on the United States PGA Tour for the first
time in 30 months.
The American fired a one-under 71
that gave him a one-shot lead over Graeme McDowell, and an opportunity
to show if he has regained his status as the most formidable closer in
Woods, who last won on the Tour in September
2009 at the BMW Championship, has a 37-2 record when he has the outright
lead going into the final round.
And the former world No. 1 has
never had a better chance to end his title drought than this morning
(Singapore time) - on a Bay Hill course where he has won a record six
'I enjoy it,' he said of his place atop the leaderboard at 11-under 205.
'It means I've played well to get there. It's not like I'm slashing it all over the place and happened to be at 11-under par.
'If you're in the lead, you've done some good things. That's how I've always looked at it, and it's a nice position to be in.'
He has such control of his golf ball that he
went 38 consecutive holes at the US$6 million (S$7.6 million) event with
a putter in his hand for a birdie attempt.
But there was also enough evidence on Saturday to suggest that it will not be easy for him.
In two holes, he went from a four-shot lead to
briefly tied with Northern Irishman McDowell after a bizarre chain of
events that featured a young man passing out and a woman screaming, all
in the middle of Woods' swing on the 15th tee.
'I tried to stop my swing, but I was past the
point of no return and flipped it out of bounds,' Woods said. 'Bad break
there at No.15 with what went on, but it's just the way it goes.'
But he followed the double bogey with a birdie from a fairway bunker on the par-five 16th to restore his lead.
The last time Woods and McDowell played in the
final group of any tournament, McDowell rallied from four shots behind
and beat Woods in a play-off in the Chevron World Challenge at the end
'The golf course is going to be the main competitor tomorrow,' McDowell said.
Indeed, it might not be just them.
Ernie Els rekindled his hopes of getting into
the Masters with six birdies in a round of 67 that left him only three
Ian Poulter had a 68 and also was tied for
third, while Charles Howell III (68) and Sony Open winner Johnson Wagner
(69) were four behind.
South African Els is at No. 62 in the world
and needs to crack the top 50 this week to get an invitation to Augusta.
He could get there by finishing alone in third place.
With several rivals having plenty to play for, Woods can be sure that his next win will not be handed to him.
'There's going to be a nice amount of
expectations on him tomorrow, trying to complete the comeback,' McDowell
said. 'He's still got to win. Still got to go win tomorrow, like the
rest of us have to.'