Woods stumbled to start the back nine though, with a bogey on the 10th dropping him back to an even par, while American Billy Horschel proved to be the next closest challenger, overtaking Rose to sit four shots behind the runaway leader.
Woods, a two-time victor of the tournament, carded six birdies in his opening seven holes during his third round, opening up a five-shot lead at one stage.
"It's huge", top-ranked Justin Rose said, adding, "The comeback is for real". And he has never coughed up a lead of three shots or more. He's playing so well on a very hard golf course. Then, as McIlroy finished up, and before Woods would tap in for par, tap the putter to the ground and raise his arms, he would ward off emotion as he claimed to realize at last one towering "at last".
The only disappointment - a minor one under the circumstances - was realizing as he came down the 18th that Rose had made birdie to finish in a three-way tie for fourth, which gave him the FedEx Cup and the $10 million bonus.
This birdie on the 13th was enough to put Woods five shots clear, and demonstrated the kind of mood Woods was in.
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The performance also helped Woods move from 20th to second in the final FedEx Cup standings. "I've got a bunch of guys behind me that have been playing well and are playing well, and we'll see what happens tomorrow".
A Woods victory would be an 80th PGA Tour triumph and take him to within two wins of Sam Snead's all-time 82 Tour victories.
"Probably the low point was not knowing if I'd ever be able to live pain-free again", Woods said afterward.
"You know", the veteran Horschel said, "Rory and I were discussing it yesterday a little bit".
A sea of supporters form a backdrop as Tiger Woods wins his first PGA Tour title since 2013. "I had to suck it up and hit some shots". Even after shooting an opening-round 62 two weeks ago at the BMW Championship, Woods found himself trailing heading into the weekend, fighting to get in contention. Not bad for a 42-year-old with four back surgeries who returned to competition in December at No. 1,199 in the world.