Tiger Woods got up early on Saturday to finish his second round, and promptly hit one of his worst shots in years.
By the end of the third round, he was in a familiar position after stringing together fantastic shots from tee to green.
Woods closed in on his second straight victory, birdieing two of the last three holes for his third straight 6-under 66 and a two-stroke lead in the Buick Open.
He surged to the top of the leaderboard with a birdie at No. 16 and caught a break on the last hole, helping him pull away from the rest of the pack.
Woods' tee shot on 18 went way left and ricocheted off a spectator and into the fairway. Woods thanked the fan by giving him a signed glove, and ended up making a 7-footer for birdie.
"That guy is going to have a bad bruise on his hand," Woods said. "He really took one for the team."
Robert Allenby, Lucas Glover and Scott Verplank were tied for second after 66s. Two-time defending champion Vijay Singh (68) was three strokes behind in a group of five that included Vaughn Taylor, who matched the third-round tournament record with a 63.
"It's the type of golf course that you can shoot anything," Allenby said. "Last year, I shot 7 under the last eight holes to finish fourth. It shows you that you're never really out of it."
Woods is 20-for-20 when leading tournaments by more than one shot and is 35-of-38 when leading or tied entering a final round.
If the 30-year-old Woods were to win his second Buick Open yesterday, it would be his 50th PGA Tour victory -- making him the youngest to reach the milestone.
He is playing in his first tournament since his emotional win at the British Open and before he goes for his 12th major at the PGA Championship in two weeks.
Woods resumed the rain-delayed second round in the morning at the par-5 16th hole and promptly hooked his tee shot out of bounds.
"It was probably the worst shot I've hit in years, just a terrible snap hook," he said.
He bogeyed the hole and finished with a 66. His 12-under 132 total left him one shot behind Brett Quigley, who slipped back in the pack with a 71 in the third round to finish at 14 under.
Woods, who had a four-hour break before the third round, bogeyed No. 2 after missing the green on his approach. After Quigley got to 14 under on the fourth hole, Woods stayed within a shot with a clutch, 18-footer for his first of three birdies on the front nine.
He had four birdies on the back, knowing just getting under par doesn't cut it at the Buick Open. Pars are like bogeys on a lot of holes at Warwick Hills, which is relatively short and has greens that the players rave about.
"You can't go out and grind it like a major championship and shoot 71 or 70," said Woods, who hasn't shot over par in eight appearances at the Buick Open.
"If you did that, you would probably get run over. Certainly, 63s and 64s can be had out there," he said.
Singh, who like Woods had to finish his second round in the morning, is trying to become the first player to win the tournament three straight times and four overall. Singh held off Woods last year and John Daly in 2004 to win at 24 and 23 under.
Ryder Cup points were at stake yesterday for some players fighting for automatic spots on the US team.
Just three tournaments, including the Buick Open, remain for players to get into the top 10 on the points list. Glover (13th), Taylor (11th) and Verplank (22nd) have a chance to move up the standings.