Tiger Woods takes share of lead

Updated: January 28, 2012, 1:29 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- Tiger Woods moved to the top of the leaderboard Saturday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, a position that once was taken for granted, but is his first third-round lead in an official tournament in more than two years.

Woods shot a bogey-free 66 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club to tie for the 54-hole lead in the European Tour event, his first tournament of the 2012 season.

England's Robert Rock, who has a lone European Tour victory, also shot 66 to tie Woods for the top spot at 11-under 205.

It is the first time since the 2009 Australian Masters that Woods has held at least a share of the lead going into the final round. That also was the last time he won an official tournament.

"I didn't do a lot of things right, but I didn't do a lot of things wrong today," Woods said. "It was just very consistent. I made a couple of putts here and there, but it was just a very consistent round of golf."

Woods missed only two greens and for the second time in three rounds did not make a bogey, taking 30 putts.

His birdie at the par-5 18th -- after two-putting from 50 feet -- gave him the outright lead until Rock followed with a birdie.

The Englishman's only victory came a year ago at the Italian Open. He said he is looking forward to his first opportunity to play with Woods.

"That's an opportunity not to be missed," Rock said. "I bogeyed the 16th hole and thought it might have cost me. So two birdies to finish put me back in there. ... I just want to experience it. How many chances I'll get to do that, it's not clear."

Woods has been particularly effective from this position, winning 48 of 52 times on the PGA Tour when holding or sharing a 54-hole lead. His record worldwide is 52 of 60.

At the 2010 Chevron World Challenge, he had a four-shot lead after three rounds but lost to Graeme McDowell in a playoff.

He also lost the 2009 PGA Championship after taking a two-stroke lead over Y.E. Yang into the final round. That was the only time he's failed to convert a 54-hole lead in a major championship, winning 14 times from that position.

Woods' win at the Chevron World Challenge in December 2011 came with world ranking points, but is not considered official on the PGA or European tours.

But Woods was quick to note that Sunday's final round will not be just about him and Rock. They will be joined in the final threesome by Sweden's Peter Hanson, a European Ryder Cup player, who shot 64 to finish 9-under 207.

Also tied at 207 are Rory McIlroy (68), Paul Lawrie (68) and Francesco Molinari (66).

Four more players are at 208, including second-round leader Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark. There are 15 players within five shots of the lead.

"There's too many guys up there right now," Woods said. "There's a ton of guys with a chance to win. We have not separated ourselves from the field. I need to go out there and shoot a solid round of golf, and I can't go out there and shoot even par and expect to win. I've got to go out there and go get it."

McIlroy will chase his fourth European Tour victory from a group in front of Woods after playing with him during the first three rounds.

"It's a great atmosphere, as you can hear, and it's a great buzz playing with Tiger," McIlroy said. "I'll miss the crowds and miss the buzz tomorrow even though I'll be in the second-to-last group, so I'll still get a bit of it."

Bob Harig is a senior golf writer for ESPN.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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