World No 3 Jon Rahm fired a bogey-free six-under-par 65 on Saturday to grab a three-shot lead at the Genesis Invitational, while Tiger Woods impressed with a four-under-par 67.
Rahm, who can return to No 1 with a victory, hit just five of 14 fairways but moved past overnight leader Max Homa, putting himself in position to capture a third PGA Tour title of 2023.
His 15-under-par total of 198 put him three clear of Homa, whose two-under-par 69 for 201 kept him one in front of Keith Mitchell, who also posted a 69.
South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout is one over (T63) after a third-round 71, while Dylan Frittelli missed the weekend cut.
“It’s a great round of golf,” Rahm said. “Really proud of today, heck of a round of golf.”
Rahm opened his round with a birdie at the 1st, just missing a 12-foot eagle attempt. He rolled in birdie putts from inside eight feet at the 4th, 8th and 9th.
He rolled in a two-foot birdie at the 11th, to take the solo lead at 14 under.
Homa, who started the day with a one-shot lead, kept the pressure on. He drained a 19-foot birdie putt at the 3rd and added a five-foot birdie at the 6th. He tied Rahm’s lead with a birdie at the 10th and tied him again with a seven-foot birdie at the 13th.
Homa faltered, however, with back-to-back bogeys at the 15th and 16th, and Rahm closed his round with a final flourish – draining a 23-foot birdie putt at 18.
“The only thing I was worried about was getting that ball to the hole,” Rahm said. “I’ve hit that putt a million times, I’ve seen that putt hit a million times and we all leave it just a couple, a couple rolls short, so I just wanted to get it there. Felt good obviously making it, it’s a huge bonus, right?”
Rahm is seeking a third title of the year after victories at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and at La Quinta, California, in his next event.
His hot start followed a strong autumn in Europe, where he won a third Spanish Open title in October and the DP World Tour Championship in November.
It all has him in position to grab the No 1 spot from American Scottie Scheffler, who supplanted Rory McIlroy with his Phoenix Open win last Sunday.
While Rahm arrived at Riviera as perhaps the hottest golfer on tour, Woods was a mystery coming into his first event since he missed the cut at the Open Championship in July.
Still severely limited by the right leg injuries he suffered in a February 2021 car accident, Woods had barely made the halfway cut.
But he equalled the third-best round of the day behind Denny McCarthy’s 64 – which pulled the American into a share of seventh, and Rahm’s 65.
Woods has played just three tour-level tournaments since the crash, finishing 47th at the Masters last April, withdrawing from the PGA Championship after three rounds and missing the cut at St Andrews.
“It’s the best I’ve played,” he said of Saturday’s effort, which featured an eagle at the par-five 1st – where his approach from just off the fairway looked like it might yield an albatross before leaving him a three-footer for the eagle.
Woods said there wasn’t that much difference between Friday and Saturday, apart from the putts falling
“I’ve driven it well the last three days, my iron play has been good,” he said. “I made a few adjustments today and some of the putts went in.”
Woods is the host of the tournament, which features 19 of the world’s top 20 all chasing a $3.6-million winner’s prize from a purse of $20-million.
That prize money is bumped up thanks to the tournament’s status as one of the tour’s new designated events, designed to bring the best players together more often.
But even with the wealth of talent on view, Woods was the undisputed star attraction, provoking roars throughout the day from his legion of followers.
“You’re fully aware where Tiger is,” Rahm said.
© Agence France-Presse