"He's a great kid, just an unbelievable talent," Woods said. "He really understands the game. it's just a matter of time before he gains more knowledge."
A Sunday charge from McIlroy, 22, is certainly not out of the question at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, where Woods will try for his first official victory in more than two years. McIlroy's 66 was just 2 shots worse than Woods on Saturday, hence the difference going into the final round.
But if not McIlroy, who?
None of the players, outside of McIlroy, who are attempting to deny Woods has a bloated résumé. None of the players within 3 shots of the lead, unlike McIlroy, are ranked among the top four in the world.
Who are these guys?
The Englishman is tied for the lead and met Woods for the first time Saturday. His lone European Tour victory came last year at the Italian Open. He is ranked 171st in the world. Rock, 34, finished 34th in the 2011 Race to Dubai.
The Swede is 2 shots back after a 64 got him into contention. A member of the 2010 European Ryder Cup team, Hanson has four career European Tour wins, including two in 2010. Hanson is ranked 47th in the world.
Another Ryder Cupper, Molinari, from Italy, is 2 back after a 66 on Saturday. The brother of fellow tour player Edoardo (who is another stroke behind), Molinari, 29, is ranked 43rd in the world. The last of his two victories came in 2010 at the HSBC Championship.
The Scotsman's biggest claim to fame was his 1999 British Open victory at Carnoustie, where Jean Van de Velde squandered a 3-stroke lead on the final hole. Lawrie, 43, has six European Tour victories and is ranked 84th in the world. He is 2 back.
Ranked third in the world, McIlroy, 22, is the winner of last summer's U.S. Open and added another victory late in the year at the Hong Kong Open. The only knock is that he doesn't win more. He is 2 back.
The South African is ranked 82nd in the world and has yet to win on the European Tour. Coetzee is 25 and last year finished 26th in the Race to Dubai. He is 3 strokes back.
Another South African who is ranked 206th in the world, Kingston has two career victories on the European Tour. His last came in 2009 at the Mercedes-Benz Championship. He is 3 strokes back.
The Frenchman shot 68 to put himself in contention. At age 29, he has yet to win on the tour and is ranked 313th in the world. He is 3 strokes back.
The Dane was the second-round leader and fell back with a 71 on Saturday. At age 23, he is in his second year on the European Tour after three runner-up finishes a year ago. He is ranked 171st in the world.
Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.