- Associated Press - Saturday, January 28, 2012

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Tiger Woods put himself in position to win his second straight tournament Saturday, and this one would leave little doubt about which direction his game is going.

He finally won two months ago against an 18-man field in California.

On Saturday, against the strongest field golf has seen in at least three months, Woods shot a 6-under 66 for a share of the lead with Robert Rock going into the final round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

The topic suddenly shifts from the state of his swing and his health. Woods has a 55-8 record worldwide when he has at least a share of the lead going into the final round, and a win would be the first time since August 2009 that he has won consecutive starts.

More than being atop the leaderboard, it’s how Woods got there.

“It’s fun when I’m able to control the golf ball like I did,” Woods said.

There wasn’t a lot of fist-pumping from Woods, who traded drama for consistency, racking up six birdies in a bogey-free round. It was a memorable performance by the American, mostly for his ability to hit fairways, tame the par 5s and sink clutch putts — including a 6-footer for birdie on the final hole.

“It just seemed like I didn’t do a lot of things right but I didn’t do a lot of things wrong today, it was just very consistent,” Woods said. “You know, made a couple putts here and there. … I stayed away from trouble and tried to keep the ball towards the fat side of some of these pins, and I think I did a pretty good job.”

Woods finished at 11-under 205. Rock, at No. 117 in the world, birdied his final two holes to join Woods in the last group along with Peter Hanson, who had a 64 and was two shots behind.

Also two back at 9-under 207 were Rory McIlroy, who played with Woods for the third straight day and had a 68, keeping the No. 3 player very much in the picture.

Francesco Molinari (66) and Paul Lawrie (68) also were tied for third. George Coetzee (65), James Kingston (67), overnight leader Thorbjorn Olesen (71) and Jean-Baptiste Gonnet (69) were another shot back.

The two-month break did little to slow Woods‘ progress. This was the first time in 20 months — dating to The Players Championship in 2010 — that he broke par in the opening three rounds of any tournament. It was his lowest score since a 66 in the second round of the Masters last year, and his first time atop the leaderboard in a full-field event since he won the Australian Masters in November 2009.

Woods was two shots back after the second round, but started climbing up the leaderboard Saturday with an opening birdie, followed by another on No. 7. He stepped up his game on the back nine and grabbed a share of the lead after he just missed an eagle putt on 10 and settled for a birdie. He briefly took the outright lead with a birdie on 14.

The crowd of several hundred cheered every birdie, with some yelling “Tiger’s back.”

Woods refused to talk about his chances of winning, saying there were too many players within striking distance.

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