Rose is coming off a playoff loss at the BMW Championship last week, and as the No. 2 seed in the FedEx Cup is in the best spot to capture the $10 million prize.
Woods began the third round tied with Justin Rose but while the Englishman made a stuttering start, Woods rolled back the years with a spectacular display of shotmaking - and when he wasn't peppering the flags with his approach shots, he was holing unlikely birdie putts instead. He is on the same mark as McIlroy following a 68 and is the overwhelming favourite to top the FedEx Cup standings on Sunday evening and so collect the $10 million bonus, the biggest payday ever for any English golfer.
"We'll see what happens", McIlroy continued, "but it'll be exciting to be up there and have a chance to win the golf tournament".
The 14-time Major victor is a two-time former Tour Championship victor and enjoys a remarkable record of winning 54 of 57 PGA Tour events when holding the 54-hole lead. He gave one stroke back with a bogey on No. 9, then played an even back-nine with a birdie on No. 12, a bogey on No. 16 and pars the rest of the way.
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The victory was Woods' 80th on the PGA Tour, two short of the all-time record held by Sam Snead.
That has been the biggest issue when Woods has had chances during his comeback. "That helps. I don't have to shoot 63 or 64 and hope I get help". On the occasion of the first, at the 2015 Masters, neither player was in contention to win. He is now tied for second.
Rose has wider reason to keep Woods within view.
He trailed by four at The Open Championship and PGA Championship, and was five back starting the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide and his most recent start, the BMW Championship. A flip wedge to 12 feet and two putts later, he was back in a tie with Rose. Woods birdied the first, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh holes and found himself five shots ahead... His first bogey came at the par-3 ninth, and he turned in 30. He settled for a 65, the lowest score of the day. "I'm certainly much more equipped than I was in March because of what I've gone through". It didn't take long for him to electrify the Atlanta crowd. "He was running the tables there". So it was about me and just what I had to do.
"I didn't hit it very good overall today, didn't quite have the sharpness I had yesterday and it was pretty evident", Woods told reporters. "It was the kind of day that if I let my focus drop or if I got frustrated or if I did anything wrong, it was the kind of day that could unravel".