Abu Dhabi - Tiger Woods shared the joint lead in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship after Saturday's third round, firing a 66 to stand at 11-under for the tournament.
That was level with England's Robert Rock who also had a 66 and two shots clear of Irishman Rory McIlroy (68), Sweden's Peter Hanson (65), Francesco Molinari of Italy (66) and Paul Lawrie of Scotland (64).
A further stroke back came South Afrian pair George Coetzee (65) and James Kingston (67) alongside Jean-Baptiset Gonnet of France (69) and Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark (71).
Woods started the day in the $2.7million dollars European Tour event tied for fifth with McIlroy and seven others on five under, two shy of leader Olesen.
Playing confident, controlled golf off the tee in what is his season-opener, the 36-year-old American completed a second bogey-free round in three days and added five birdies for his 67.
"I played well today." he said. "Not doing a lot of things right, but not doing a lot of things wrong either. Just very consistent. Things are progressing."
The lead changed hands several times on a day of perfect playing conditions which allowed for low-scoring on Abu Dhabi's testing National Course.
Kingston, Gonnet, Hanson and Rock all took command at one stage or another before Woods edged ahead with his fifth birdie of the day at the 14th.
From there on in he parred the next four holes and birdied the par-five last after reaching the green comfortably in two.
His six-under 66 was his best tournament score since he shot the same number in the second round of last year's Masters.
It was while playing at Augusta National that Woods picked up the leg injury that sidelined him for most of the rest of the season.
His playing partner for the third straight day, McIlroy, stayed in touch with a 68 to settle in at two strokes off the lead.
World number two Lee Westwood, shrugged off the effects of a jarred nerve in his neck to fire a 68 which left him at four under par, but fellow Englishman Luke Donald, the top ranked player in the world is out of contention.
He failed to get anything going and had to settle for a 73, which left him at level par for the tournament.
The event is the fourth tournament in the 2012 Race to Dubai after three in South Africa and it opens a three-week long Desert swing in the Gulf which takes in Doha next week and the Dubai Desert Classic the week after.
It also is the season-opener for most of the big names in golf as they shake off the winter cobwebs and start preparations for the first major of the year, The Masters which takes place at Augusta National in early April.
Leading scores at the par-72
National Course on Saturday in the third round of the European
Tour's Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship:
205 - Tiger Woods (USA) 70-69-66, Robert Rock (ENG) 69-70-66
207 - Peter Hanson (SWE) 74-69-64, Francesco Molinari (ITA) 74-67-66, Rory McIlroy (NIR) 67-72-68, Paul Lawrie (SCO) 70-69-68
- George Coetzee (RSA) 71-72-65, James Kingston (RSA) 72-69-67,
Jean-Baptiste Gonnet (FRA) 68-71-69, Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN) 70-67-71
- Thomas Bjorn (DEN) 73-71-65, Jamie Donaldson (WAL) 74-68-67, Graeme
McDowell (NIR) 72-69-68, Matteo Manassero (ITA) 73-65-71
210 - Keith Horne (RSA) 71-71-68, Richard Finch (ENG) 68-71-71, Gareth Maybin (NIR) 68-70-72
- Graeme Storm (ENG) 74-69-68, Mark Foster (ENG) 75-67-69, Liang
Wen-Chong (CHN) 70-71-70, Johan Edfors (SWE) 70-71-70, Miguel Angel
Jimenez (ESP) 72-69-70, Sergio Garcia (ESP) 71-69-71, Robert Karlsson