It was the 80th career PGA Tour victory for Woods, who almost won the FedEx Cup championship, too, until Rose survived a late meltdown with a birdie on the final hole. The tournament tipped toward Tiger at that moment. Woods lost a shot at a 15th major when he was denied at the 2009 PGA Championship by Y.E. Yang - who hasn't won on the PGA Tour since. Woods, even playing at age 42 after four back surgeries, isn't going to blow many five-stroke leads with 17 holes to go. It was as spectacular as it was boring, as nostalgic as it was mundane.
Woods fired a third round of 65 to go -12 in the PGA Tour's big money shoot-out and looked, at one stage, to be running away with it all. It was probably already in the bag at that point, but that one was for good measure.
Still, a 5-under-par 65 to forge a three-stroke advantage after being tied for the 36-hole lead at East Lake produced some vintage stuff, as Woods birdied six of his first seven holes.
It was the archetype for a Tiger Woods victory.
It felt so familiar - the roars, the fist pumps, the frenzied scramble to keep up with a leaderboard that was quickly tilting in Tiger Woods' direction. McIlroy dressed in black Saturday, and someone suggested that he should have saved his third-round outfit for Sunday, when he surely will be cast as the villain by the pro-Woods crowds.
Woods last victory was 1,875 days ago in August 2013 and capturing an eighth WGC - Bridgestone Invitational.
"Well, it's - simple math says that if I play a clean card, the guys behind me have to shoot 67 to force it into extra", Woods added.
An 80th PGA Tour title for Woods sees the American cap a remarkable season, in which he has defied sceptics, in fitting fashion but Rose did enough, despite a late scare, to win the FedExCup and its $10m (£7.6m) jackpot with a share for fourth-place.
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United go into the Wolves game on a run of three straight victories, conceding only one goal in the process. I think with my style of game I am good for this league and I think I adapt good.
He's been here so many times in his career and succeeded more times than not, and this new, reimagined version has the ultimate chance to complete what would arguably be the greatest comeback in sports history.
There are a lot to choose from, of course, and this wasn't a major or anything close to it.
"Certainly, this is going to be up there as one of my better accomplishments I've had [if I win]", Woods told NBC. The gallery at East Lake was enormous in anticipation of Woods winning for the first time in more than five years.
"All I can do is concentrate on myself", McIlroy said of the pairing. "My body was a wreck".
Tiger and Rory will be teeing off at 2:05 p.m. E.T. The final round will be on NBC.
"I felt very comfortable when I got in the mix there at Tampa [the Valspar Championship] even though it was very early in the start to this year, " Woods said.
"Just not as much rust", the Northern Irishman said.