Back where he seemingly always was, Tiger Woods is in position to win his 80th PGA Tour title at the Tour Championship and will take a three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose into the final round. Never before has Woods failed to convert when he had such a big advantage through three rounds. But, of course, these are different times, Woods is a different golfer, and McIlroy and Rose have rarely, if at all, had to contend with him at his peak.
Still, a 5-under-par 65 to forge a three-stroke advantage after being tied for the 36-hole lead at East Lake produced some vintage stuff, as Woods birdied six of his first seven holes. “I would love to be able to win this event,’’ said Woods, 42, who is playing for the 18th time in 2018 after missing most of the past two years due to multiple back surgeries. “I’ve got a three-shot lead. I’ve got a bunch of guys behind me who have been playing well and are playing well. We’ll see what happens.’’ It should be fascinating.
Rose, 38, is the No. 1-ranked player in the world and has had an enormous run over the past 12 months, winning four times worldwide and posting 16 top-10 finishes. In three previous rounds with Woods this year, Rose shot the lower scorer but couldn’t keep up Saturday, finishing with a 68 after starting bogey-bogey. Rose is still in position to capture the FedEx Cup, the season-long points race that concludes Sunday. Bryson DeChambeau, the leader coming into the Tour Championship, is tied for 21st.
Rose would automatically capture the title with a win, and unless there is a big rally by DeChambeau, he would likely capture the overall title with a third- or fourth-place finish. The winner of the FedEx Cup receives a $10 million bonus, and Woods has a shot if Rose falters. He needs to capture the Tour Championship and have Rose drop to a fifth-place tie or worse to have a chance at his third FedEx Cup title.
McIlroy, 29, won the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier this year — Woods tied for fifth — but has been mostly frustrated of late, unable to get the most out of his game. He finished second at The Open, where Woods briefly led on the back nine, and will be paired with him in the final round for just the second time after birdieing two of the last three holes for a 66.