Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the second hole during the third round… (Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated…)
Tiger Woods is one round away from returning to No. 1 in the world.
With key par saves early in his round and an eagle for the third straight day at Bay Hill, Woods seized control Saturday with a six-under 66 to race by Justin Rose and build a two-shot lead going into the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Orlando, Fla.
Woods was at 11-under 205, two shots ahead of Rickie Fowler (67), John Huh (71) and Rose, who at one point was six shots ahead of Woods. Rose had a 39 on the back nine and wound up with a 72.
Woods hasn't been No. 1 in the world ranking since the last week of October 2010. That can change Sunday with a victory on a Bay Hill course where he already has won seven times, and from a position where he hardly ever loses.
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."
Rose had a three-shot lead on the back nine until he crumbled, making three bogeys over the last six holes.
He 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. The last time Fowler and Woods were paired together in the final round was at the Memorial, where Woods closed with a 67 to win and Fowler had an 84.
Nine players were separated by three shots going into the final round, though the dynamic takes on a different vibe at Bay Hill. Woods can tie a PGA Tour record for most victories at one tournament. Sam Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times.
Corey Pavin birdied his first six holes and finished with a five-under 67 to join Bernhard Langer, Roger Chapman and Joe Daley atop the leaderboard after the second round of the Champions Tour's Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic in Saucier, Miss.
Pavin took advantage of Fallen Oak's soft greens in ideal windless conditions.
Langer had a 65, Chapman shot 67 and Daley had a 66.
Defending champion Fred Couples also had a good day, shooting a 66 to stay within striking distance at two strokes off the lead.
Venus Williams out with injury at Key Biscayne
A big match beckoned for Venus Williams in Key Biscayne, Fla., on a court where she first hoisted the championship trophy 15 years ago.
Alas, on Saturday she wasn't up to any heavy lifting.
The three-time Key Biscayne champion withdrew from the Sony Open because of a lower back injury shortly before her third-round match against fellow American Sloane Stephens.
Williams, seeded 19th, was extended to three sets in the second round Thursday against Kimiko Date-Krumm. She said her back began to bother her Friday, and she decided after warming up that she couldn't play.
Stephens will play defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska on Monday, and could face Serena Williams in the semifinals. Serena won her third-round match, overcoming a 3-love deficit in the first set to beat Ayumi Morita, 6-3, 6-3.
Sam Querrey won in his first match as the top-ranked American man, rallying past Lukasz Kubot, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. John Isner hit 25 aces and beat Ivan Dodig, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (5).
Second-seeded Andy Murray needed only 56 minutes to beat Bernard Tomic, 6-3, 6-1.
USC's Haley Anderson won the 1,650-yard freestyle title and Haley Ishimatsu won the platform event at the NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships at the IU Natatorium/IUPUI Sports Complex in Indianapolis, Ind.
Georgia won the team title. USC finished seventh.
Anderson, a senior, also won her second consecutive 500-yard freestyle title on Thursday. Ishimatsu, a sophomore, scored an NCAA record 396.75 points.
— Gary Klein
The Houston Texans have signed punter Shane Lechler.
Terms of the contract were not disclosed by the team Saturday. ESPN reported the deal was for three years and worth a maximum of $5.5 million, with a $1 million signing bonus.
The 36-year-old Lechler is the NFL's career leader in gross average per punt (47.3 yards) and has led the league in gross average in four seasons. He also ranks seventh in career net punting average (38.8 yards).
The Chicago Bears agreed to a one-year contract with safety Tom Zbikowski.
World Cup star Ted Ligety won the slalom Saturday in the U.S. Alpine Championships at Squaw Valley, Calif., sweeping both runs for a 1.48 second victory.
Ligety, from Park City, Utah, won his seventh U.S. title and first since 2007 when he won the giant slalom and combined.