Woods has looked much more like his old self in recent months after recovering from surgery on a back injury which had threatened to end his career previous year. "Just wanted to sort of chisel a few back and give myself a chance going into tomorrow".
Rahm was three behind at 136, along with Billy Horschel and Patrick Cantlay, each with a tournament-best 65, and Justin Thomas, the defending FedEx Cup champion who hit tee shots all over East Lake and somehow managed a 69. He wound up with a hard-earned 68.
He added another at the third and by the time he birdied the seventh hole, his sixth birdie of the day, he'd extended that lead to five shots and was sending an unmistakable message that reached well beyond the steamy confines of East Lake. "Obviously his history, his statistics from this point are impeccable".
Woods has gone more than five years without winning.
"I would love to be able to win this event", he said.
However Woods has progressed steadily during his comeback season, leading the British Open during the final round in July before finishing second at last month's PGA Championship.
Woods surged into the lead starting with a wedge to 4 feet on No. 12, an 8-foot par save on the 13th, an 18-foot birdie on the 14th, and a tee shot that flirted with the edge of the peninsula green on the par-3 15th.
"So, that helps. I don't have to shoot 63 or 64 and hope I get help. This is a spot I'd much rather be in than certainly four or five back".
The Saturday start was simply mesmerizing. But even then he chipped to within six feet of the pin and sunk his first putt for a birdie. His 20-foot birdie putt on No. 4 tumbled into the center of the cup with ideal pace.
On the next hole, Woods found himself staring at a near impossible greenside bunker shot.
The cheers were endless, and there was no doubting what was going on.
"Sixty-four is my best on a Sunday which puts me at 11 [under], so if he's 12 I need to shoot my career best in the final round and he needs to do something very un-Tiger-like", Casey laughed. "What an atmosphere it is out there this week".
That's big news for Woods, on the hunt for his first win since August 2013.
McIlroy admitted he has been guilty of looking at the leaderboard too much and insisted he must focus on his own game in the final round to stand any chance at all. He missed several good birdie opportunities as poor putting continues to plague him. On Sunday, he get a front-row seat. They've had some duels in the past, most notably at the Honda Classic in 2012 when McIlroy held off a 62 by Woods in the final round.
Tony Finau and Dustin Johnson, the other top-5 seeds who only have to win to claim the FedEx Cup, have ground to make up on the weekend.