Tiger Woods was bracing himself to lose the World Number One ranking after struggling to 11 over par at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Woods shot a 75 to go with his opening 74 and second-round 72 and lay 18 shots behind clubhouse leader Retief Goosen in 78th place.
He picked up five bogeys, including two on the final two holes, and a double bogey at the par-four eighth to leave fellow American Phil Mickelson, one shot behind Goosen with both players yet to start their third round, firmly on course to take the number one berth.
When asked about his stranglehold on the top ranking, Woods said: “Well, if Phil plays the way he's supposed to this weekend, then he'll be Number One.”
Woods has held the World Number Position since June 12, 2005, with a record 269 consecutive weeks at the top. He has been World Number One for a staggering 611 weeks in his career but Mickelson has a golden opportunity to become the 13th player to earn World Number One status.
Bernhard Langer was the first World Number One when the Official World Golf Rankings was launched in 1986. Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Fred Couples, Nick Price, Tom Lehman, Ernie Els, David Duval and Vijay Singh, in addition to Woods, have also held the World Ranking Position.
Woods’ score of 11 over par sets a new mark for his highest 54-hole score in relation to par since turning professional. Woods had twice previously finished with a score of ten over through 54 holes.