THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Graeme McDowell rolled in two long putts early in the round Saturday and ran his streak to 29 holes without a bogey on his way to a 4-under 68 and a two-shot lead over Keegan Bradley going into the final round of the World Challenge.
McDowell hasn't won anywhere in the world since he rallied from four shots behind and beat Tiger Woods in a playoff at this event two years ago, capping off a dream season in which he won the U.S. Open and the decisive match for Europe in the Ryder Cup.
This time, he'll be the one protecting a lead.
Bradley said he had to cope with more fallout on the proposed ban of the belly putting stroke when one man in the gallery called him a "cheater." It doesn't take much to motivate the former PGA Champion, and it didn't keep him from a 67 that put him in the final pairing with McDowell.
"It's very disrespectful, but it's fine with me," Bradley said. "I've got to try to look at it as motivation to help me try to win this tournament."
Woods, the tournament host and five-time champion at Sherwood Country Club, kept himself in the game. Even though Woods failed to birdie any of the five par 5s, he picked up a pair of birdies on the final two par 3s and added a third to salvage a 69 that left him five shots behind.
"I'm going to have to shoot a low one tomorrow and see what happens," Woods said.
McDowell was at 13-under 203, and will try to win from the front for the first time since the 2008 Scottish Open at Loch Lomond. His specialty of late has been rallying on the last day -- four shots behind at the World Challenge, three shots behind at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, four shots behind at the Wales Open, all of those in 2010.
"I'm not sure how many times I've won from the front," McDowell said. "Hopefully, I'll add one tomorrow."
On another overcast day with a light drizzle, McDowell picked up a pair of birdies he wasn't expecting.
He laid up on the par-5 second hole and hit his wedge with two much spin, the ball rolling back down a pair of tiers that left him some 40 feet away. He rolled that in for a birdie, and then holed about a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 4.
McDowell's best swing of the day came at the ninth, with the pin at the far back of the green. He hit a 6-iron to about 6 feet for birdie, and picked up his fourth birdie with a two-putt on the 11th, the one par 5 he can reach in two.
The damp conditions all week have made some of the par 5s difficult to reach, even for some of the longer hitters, and birdies are no longer sure things. Woods found that out the hard way, mainly by missing the fairway off the tee and making it difficult to get home in two. But he closed strong, and still has an outside chance.
Bo Van Pelt had a 70 and was tied with Woods at 8-under than 208. Jim Furyk was another shot behind after trading three birdies with three bogeys for a 72.
Bradley and McDowell are the only players to post all three rounds in the 60s.
Bradley has been the center of attention all week, especially after the USGA and the R&A proposed a new rule on anchored strokes that would keep him from using the belly putter. The rule is not to take effect until 2016 at the latest, but some fans are passionate against it.
Already this week, Bradley told of getting a tweet from some follower who advised him to apply for a job at Burger King in 2016. And then he told of the man who told him he was cheating, which was unusual for Bradley because he can't ever recall getting heckled.
"There's always going to be people who are negative," he said.
The primary focus is catching up to McDowell, who is starting to feel right at home in the foothills of Conejo Valley. The runner-up finish in 2009 earned him enough ranking points that eventually got him into the U.S. Open, which he won for his first major, and that win assured him a spot in the Ryder Cup.
He won again in California with his comeback against Woods at Sherwood.
McDowell's only regret Saturday was not making another birdie after the 11th hole, although the pars didn't hurt him.
"I played disciplined golf to some of those tighter pins," McDowell said. "Couldn't seem to get anything to drop, but two shots ahead going into Sunday, I'll take that any week, anywhere, any time, and it's right where you need to be."