World no.2 Rory McIlroy fired a 66 eleven under par giving him a two shots lead after round 3 of the PGA Tour Honda Classic.
Tom Gillis and Harris English are tied in second while Justin Rose slipped to fourth in this round.
The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland needs to win the event to take over Luke Donald’s world no. 1 ranking, who is not playing this tournament.
McIlroy was denied the number one ranking after losing to Hunter Mahan in the final of the World Match Play event last weekend.
McIlroy kept in contention by putting in from the fringe grass to birdie the 11th and, after some impressive escapes of his own to salvage par.
He regained a share of the lead at the 15th after a majestic tee shot to three feet at the first of the three treacherous holes known as the Bear Trap.
The Northern Irishman was in a greenside bunker in two at the closing par-five but an assured 12-foot birdie putt gave him a useful cushion as he seeks to become the second youngest world number one after Woods.
Tiger Woods shares 18th at two under after a 69, while playing partner Lee Westwood at 70 is one further back.
Woods, playing alongside Westwood for the third day in succession, briefly threatened with birdies at the third, fourth and seventh, but could not manage any on the back nine and bogeyed the 13th.
“I putted great and I was close to putting a low one up there,” he said. “I felt like I could post five under par for the day or something like that and get myself within reach.”
PGA Tour Honda Classic third round leaderboard:
-11: Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland)
-9: Harris English (US), Tom Gillis (US)
-7: Keegan Bradley (US), Brian Harman (US), Justin Rose (England)
-6: Charl Schwartzel (SA), Dicky Pride (US)
Selected others -4: Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland)
-3: Gary Christian (England)
-2: Tiger Woods (US), Ernie Els (South Africa)
-1: Lee Westwood (England)
level: Padraig Harrington (Ireland)
+2: Brian Davis (England)
+4: Jose Maria Olazabal (Spain)