One of the most remarkable second acts in sports history is well underway. Tiger Woods, once derided as a has-been and relic by most of the sports world (and, yes, us in the media), is on the cusp of retaking the No. 1 spot in the world following yet another thoroughly dominant performance on the greens Saturday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Woods entered the day trailing Justin Rose, Bill Haas and half a dozen other players. He finished it with nothing but what would be a record eighth win at Bay Hill ahead of him.
And he did so with the flat stick. Par saves early in the round kept him in the hunt, and a birdie-eagle run on 15 and 16, combined with a key par save on 18, put him in charge. He finished the day with a six-under 66 to go -11 for the tournament, and he leads Rickie Fowler, Rose and John Huh by two shots.
[Related: Bay Hill leaderboard]
Woods' putting was simply astronomical, and it's for that reason that the rest of the field should be very worried, now and in the future. As Golf Channel's Jason Sobel noted, of 77 players to make the cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Woods ranks 75th in driving accuracy and 64th in ball striking. But his putting has saved the day. He needed only 25 putts all day, one-putting 11 greens.
"I hit a lot of good putts, especially when the wind started blowing," Woods said. "I was able to still hit the putts flush even though the wind was moving me around a little bit; it still was good." (Tiger Woods, quote machine.)
Woods, who won his 74th and 75th PGA Tour victories earlier this year, is almost unstoppable with a 54-hole lead. He's come into Sunday with a solo lead 43 times, and has converted 41 of those into victories.
[Related video: Day three highlights from Bay Hill]
To be fair, Rose did plenty to give Woods the lead. At one point early in the round, he led Woods by six strokes. But a string of bogeys late in the round doomed him. "The back nine was a shame, but today means nothing really until [Sunday] plays out, so hopefully [Woods] doesn't go get hot and then today's just a memory," Rose said after the round. "I'm going to go out there and try to play as good a round of golf as I can. I'm not going to think about who I'm competing against. It's going to be a day I'm going to need the putter to get hot. I've made too many bogeys the last two days, so I'll try to limit those mistakes and wait for the putter to get hot."
Woods will be paired with Rickie Fowler, and with a victory will retake the No. 1 position in the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time since late 2010.
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