Despite a plethora of errant tee and approach shots, Love rolled in a series of clutch par saves and unsuspecting birdie putts for a third-round 3-under-par 68.
At 10-under-par, Love is three clear of Corey Pavin (67), Dennis Paulson (68), Robert Allenby (69) and Craig Barlow (70). Pavin is a two-time winner of this event, doing so back-to-back in 1994-'95. He's the last man to accomplish that feat in the Nissan Open.
Like Love, Pavin also putted magnificently in the third round, taking just 22 swipes of the flatstick.
'My putter was really working well,' said Pavin, who one-putted his first eight holes, though only two of those were for birdie. 'It made up for a lot of things today.'
Pavin is in search of his 15th career PGA Tour victory, but his first since the 1996 MasterCard Colonial - 111 starts ago.
Pavin's putting wizardry didn't rub-off on his third-round playing companion, Tiger Woods. Woods birdied the par-5 first, but then recorded 15 straight pars. He finished the day with a pair of birdies to go along with 16 pars. Still, his 69 placed him in a tie for ninth at 5-under-par.
'I grinded myself into contention,' said Woods. 'Hopefully, I can do a little better tomorrow.'
Hopefully, he'll get the chance. Though temperatures never reached 50 degrees and rain steadied throughout the third round, the field was able to complete play. Such may not be the case on Sunday, as heavy downpours are expected to soak the Riviera course.
Love's march to a three-stroke lead was full of zigs and zags on Saturday. After nearly driving the 315-yard par-4 10th, Love's chip shot failed to reach the green. He then made the 20-foot birdie putt to take sole possession of the lead at 9-under.
At the par-5 11th, Love hooked his drive next to the practice range. He pitched out to the fairway and came up short of the green with a 3-wood. Yet again, Love made a 20-footer, this time to save par.
After three straight pars, Love appeared to have blown a birdie opportunity at the par-5 17th when he hit another tee shot offline. But once more his putter saved him, as he rolled in a 40-footer from off the green for birdie.
'It was in the front of my mind that I had to play as good a round as I could to get ahead in case something happens tomorrow,' said Love. 'In bad conditions, (the three-stroke lead) is bigger than on other courses.
In addition to the $612,000 first-place check up for grabs, Love is eyeing an unofficial $500,000 bonus for winning the West Coast Swing. Thanks to a win at Pebble Beach and a tie for second in the Buick Invitational, Love is currently tied for the top spot. This is the final event on the West Coast, before the PGA Tour heads to Florida.
News, Notes and Numbers
*Corey Pavin has reunited with his old swing coach, Bruce Hamilton. The two had been separated for six years.
*In the 'Because You Can't Mark Your Golf Ball With a $100 Bill' department, Tiger Woods had to borrow a coin from Pavin to use as a marker in the third round.
Click here for Full-Field scores from the Nissan Open!