By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Rory McIlroy did just enough to keep the lead Saturday in the Honda Classic with a 1-under 69, giving him a two-shot lead and a chance to win on the PGA Tour for the first time in 18 months.
McIlroy avoided a big number early in his round with a superb shot off the pine straw to escape with bogey, and he gave himself a slightly bigger cushion late as the wind picked up at PGA National. He hit 5-iron over the water and into the wind to 10 feet for birdie on the 16th hole. He narrowly missed two more to close out his round.
McIlroy was at 12-under 198, two shots ahead of Russell Henley.
Henley, who has not been in serious contention since winning his debut as a PGA Tour member last year in the Sony Open, made a late surge with two great shots. He holed out from 150 yards for eagle on the 14th, and made a 50-foot birdie putt from just off the 17th green. He shot a 68.
Russell Knox of Scotland had a 68 and was another shot behind.
Tiger Woods moved up 49 spots on the leaderboard after a 65 so early in the morning that he finished two hours before McIlroy started. Woods wound up in a tie for 17th, though he was still seven shots behind. Woods has never won on the PGA Tour when trailing by more than five shots going into the final round, though he once came from eight shots behind to win on the European Tour in 1998.
“Today was a positive day,” Woods said after his lowest score in 10 rounds this year. “Hit the ball well and made some putts and got myself back in the hunt.”
But there were 16 players ahead of him, and one big name at the top.
McIlroy, coming off the worst season of his young career, began to turn the corner late last year and finally won at the Australian Open. Twice this year in stroke-play tournaments, he had chances to win going into the final round, in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
This is his best opportunity yet.
SINGAPORE — Australia’s Karrie Webb shot a 2-under 70 to take a one-stroke lead over American Angela Stanford after the third round of the HSBC Women’s Champions.
Webb had an 11-under 205 total on Sentosa’s Serapong Course. The 39-year-old Hall of Famer, the 2011 Singapore winner at Tanah Merah, won the Women’s Australian Open two weeks ago for her 40th LPGA Tour title.
Stanford, the 2012 winner at Tanah Merah, had a 69.
Spain’s Azahara Munoz and Taiwan’s Teresa Lu were 8 under. Munoz shot 67, and Lu had a 70.
CENTURION, South Africa — England’s Ross Fisher increased his lead to five strokes in the Tshwane Open, shooting a 5-under 67 to reach 18 under at The Els Club at Cooperleaf.
Fisher won the last of his four European Tour titles in 2010.
Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey was second after a 69.