Tiger Woods leads Arnold Palmer Invitational

LEADER: Tiger Woods plays a shot on the 5th hole during the third round.
LEADER: Tiger Woods plays a shot on the 5th hole during the third round.

Tiger Woods, looking to end his long victory drought, will take a one-stroke lead over Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell into Sunday's final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational after shooting a one-under-par 71 on Sunday (NZT).

''As a whole I played well,'' Woods told reporters. ''I hit a lot of good shots and was just very consistent.''

The former world No. 1, searching for his first win on the PGA Tour since September 2009, had a four-stroke lead before a bogey on the 14th and a double-bogey on the next where he drove out of bounds into a neighbouring garden.

Woods revealed that shot had been the result of a scream from a woman in the crowd after a teenager fainted and that the noise came as he was already committed to his shot.

''It happened midway on my downswing and I tried to stop it but I had passed the point of no return. I stopped it and flipped it out of bounds,'' he told reporters.

''It was a solid day. Just happened to have one little fluke thing where a kid passed out.''

A birdie on the par-five 16th restored some calm to Woods's round but McDowell kept up the pressure with a birdie on the par-three 17th, where he hit his tee shot to six feet from the hole on his way to posting 71.

Woods stood on 11-under-par 205 through 54 holes at a course where he has won six times.

''I'm looking forward to getting out there and seeing what happens,'' he said with confidence.

The 14-times major winner has a 37-2 record in tour events when leading into the final round. At Bay Hill, five of Woods's six victories have come after he held the 54-hole lead leaving him ideally placed to finally get his 72nd tour win.

''He's looking to complete the comeback because there is no doubt that he is playing great,'' said former US Open champion McDowell, who beat Woods in a playoff when they went head-to-head on the final day of the non-tour Chevron Challenge in 2010.

''He's got the ball under control, but he's got to go out and try to win, the same way I do ... there is certainly going to be a lot of pressure on him on Sunday, as there is on me,'' he added.

South African Ernie Els, who needs a win here or next week in Houston to gain a berth at the Masters, was well-placed for a Sunday push after a fine 67 that left him just three strokes behind Woods, alongside Briton Ian Poulter.

But there was deep disappointment for Korean Charlie Wi and American Jason Dufner.

Wi, who started the day tied for the lead with Woods, soared to a 76 that put him five shots behind.

After opening with a 66 and 69, Dufner shot five-over 77 on his 35th birthday, with a front nine comprising four bogeys and a double bogey.

Another player who looked poised for a weekend push, Spain's Sergio Garcia, also fell victim to inconsistency, shooting 75 to fall down the leaderboard and out of contention.

England's Justin Rose also slipped back after a two-over 74 that included five bogeys left him seven shots off the lead.