But it was on Saturday's front nine that Woods played with a brilliance rarely seen from him in years, birdieing six of the first seven holes to sprint to 13 under, turning his tie with Rose to a three-stroke advantage before the pair even graced the third tee box.
World number one Justin Rose and McIlroy will both start the final round at East Lake in Atlanta three strokes behind Woods, who is in prime position to end a five-year drought since his 79th PGA Tour victory. But, of course, these are different times, Woods is a different golfer, and McIlroy and Rose have rarely, if at all, had to contend with him at his peak.
The two-time Tour Championship victor sits atop the leaderboard at five under alongside Rickie Fowler (65). Even if Woods isn't as intimidating a playing partner as he once was, he's never lost when starting the final round with a three-shot edge. Woods's 80th PGA Tour success, if it comes, will unquestionably be his most significant.
Three rounds of the 2018 Tour Championship are in the books, and Tiger Woods is now the golfer to beat at East Lake (a fun game is to imagine yourself a year ago reading those words a year from then).
Bryson DeChambeau begins the week as the favourite to win the FedEx Cup outright but England's Justin Rose and the resurgent Tiger Woods are all in contention.
"I got off to a nice start and made some nice putts".
Woods hasn't won a PGA Tour event since taking down the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio on August 4, 2013.
Rose is coming off a playoff loss at the BMW Championship last week, and as the No. 2 seed in the FedEx Cup is in the best spot to capture the $10 million prize. 'I always feel like I'm behind everyone else because I play in Europe.
"We don't play very many places like this where if you have control of your ball, if you have control of your game, you're probably going to have a good chance to win, " Thomas said. The first one? Way back in 1996, when as a 20-year-old making his third start as a pro, Woods led by a shot, only to get beat by an aging veteran named Ed Fiori, who possessed a odd grip and who to this day Woods still refers to as "The Gripper".
"All I can do is worry about myself", the Northern Irishman said. Woods, though, was to earn himself more breathing space before stepping from the final green. This is a spot I'd much rather be in than four or five back.
"I don't have to shoot 63 or 64 and hope I get help".
"It's a little more unknown now", Rose said. It was a misplayed chip late on the back nine at The Open and a collection of missed putts at the PGA Championship, although in his defense it's unlikely anyone could have caught Brooks Koepka at Bellerive. "I think I'm just posturing for position".