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Tiger leads by 1 at Bay Hill

Sat 24th, March 2012

Orlando, FL (Sports Network) - Tiger Woods didn't have the most spectacular round he's ever had at Bay Hill, but his one-under 71 Saturday was enough to keep him atop the leaderboard after three rounds of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Woods finished 54 holes at 11-under-par 205. On Sunday, he will go for his first official tour win since the 2009 BMW Championship.

Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, also carded a 71 to move into second place at minus-10.

The last time Woods and McDowell were in the final pairing together was at Woods' 2010 Chevron World Challenge. McDowell birdied the final hole of regulation and the first playoff hole to beat Woods.

Saturday is known as moving day on the PGA Tour, but that wasn't the case on this day. Woods and McDowell were the only two players in the final five groups that broke par.

Those final five groups combined to shoot 16-over par.

Ernie Els, who needs a top-three finish to get inside the top 50 in the world rankings, which in turn gets him into The Masters, fired a five-under 67 to move into a share of third. He was joined at eight-under-par 208 by Ian Poulter (68).

Johnson Wagner (69) and Charles Howell III (68) are tied for fifth at minus- seven. Charlie Wi, who shared the second-round lead with Woods, struggled to a four-over 76 to slide into a share of seventh with Kevin Na (69) at six-under- par 210.

Woods played the first three holes in one-over, but was still in the lead by himself as Wi bogeyed the first three and never recovered. Woods two-putted for birdie on the par-five fourth to get back to 10-under.

At the par-five sixth, Woods was nearly 100 feet from the hole in two. His eagle putt came up a few feet short, but he tapped in for birdie to go two clear at 11-under.

Woods cruised around the turn with four straight pars. He rolled in his first lengthy birdie putt at the 11th as he converted a 22-footer to push his lead to three.

The six-time champion converted a 14-foot birdie putt at 13 and was suddenly four clear of the field, but trouble was on the horizon.

His tee shot buried in a bunker at the par-three 14th and that led to a bogey. On his tee shot at 15, Woods was distracted by a noise and pulled his tee shot out of bounds.

"I found out that an 18-year-old kid fainted and a woman screamed," Woods explained. "I tried to stop my swing, but I was past the point of no return and flipped it out of bounds."

He knocked his fourth shot to 14 feet, but two-putted for double-bogey and his lead was suddenly down to one. However, Woods bounced back with a two-putt birdie from 22 feet out on No. 16.

Woods got up and down for par at 17 and two-putted for par at the last to remain atop the leaderboard.

"Well, I played better than that certainly. Bad break there at 15 with what went on, but it's just the way it goes," Woods said. "But I really played well today. I made one bad shot there at 14, which cost me a shot. Other than that, there wasn't a lot going on."

McDowell stumbled to a bogey on the third, but came right back a birdie on the fourth to join Woods at minus-nine. From there, McDowell played like he was at the U.S. Open.

Starting at the par-four fifth, McDowell ran off 12 consecutive pars to remain at nine-under. He drained a six-footer for birdie on the 17th to get within one of Woods. McDowell two-putted for par at the last to end one back.

"With these greens as firm as they are, fairways are key. If you miss the fairways, it's very difficult to hold these greens," McDowell said. "The pins have been tucked away all week, which has made you be very smart with your iron play going into the pins. It was a tough grind out there."

Sean O'Hair, who lost to Woods at this event in 2009, carded a two-under 70 to move into a tie for ninth at five-under-par 211. He was joined there by Zach Johnson (72), Bubba Watson (72), Chris Stroud (72) and Bud Cauley (68).

NOTES: Woods has won 47 of 51 times on the PGA Tour when owning at least a share of the 54-hole lead...The last two 54-hole leads Woods had were at the 2010 Chevron and this year's Abu Dhabi Championship, but he lost them both...Defending champion Martin Laird stumbled to a two-over 74 to slide into a share of 25th at minus-two.

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