'When I arrived here in Sunday I lost five pieces of my luggage - I didn't like Spain,' Tanaka said. 'But today, I love Spain.'
The diminutive Japanese star finished the third round birdie-birdie-bogey for a 2-under-par 70 and a one-shot lead over Canadian Mike Weir, who shot a bogey-free 65, and American Mark Calcavecchia, who carded a 69. Tiger Woods and Nick Price are tied for fourth, two shots off the lead at 7-under-par.
For the first time this week, Price finds himself looking up the leaderboard following the completion of play. The Zimbabwean opened in 63 to take a three-shot advantage after 18 holes; shot an even-par 72 to maintain a two-stroke lead after day two; and now stands two back after a third-round 74.
'I don't think I shot myself in the foot - probably missing some toes,' Price joked after his three-birdie, five-bogey performance. 'I've got a chance tomorrow. I just hope the sun comes out.'
While Price has steadily slipped since day one, Woods has continued to climb. Tiger has carded rounds of 71-69-69 to move from 19th place after Thursday into a tie for fourth entering the final round.
Saturday, Woods posted four birdies to just one bogey. However, his most energetic moment of the week, thus far, came at the par-5 17th. Dating back to the final round a year ago, Tiger had played the treacherous hole in 4-over-par. In each of those three rounds, the world's best player found the pond guarding the steeply sloped green.
This time, with the pin in the back left, Woods safely avoided the water by placing his second shot 15 feet behind the flag. Tiger then threw his hands in the air, took a bow, and two-putted for his final birdie of the day.
'It was a neat little moment,' Woods said. 'It was an 8-iron from 180 yards. I strengthened my grip to make sure it went long enough.
'My three previous shots there were good ones and cleared the water. They just didn't stay up.'
Tanaka was not to be outdone. A two-time winner in Japan this year, the 29-year-old hit his third shot ten feet past the pin, which then spun back to within a foot of the cup. Tanaka duplicated Woods' bow, cracked a huge smile, and tugged on his shirt to imitate a thumping heart.
'That's to tell everybody I'm so nervous and scared,' said Tanaka, who qualified for this event by claiming third position on the Japanese money list. 'Amazing. I'm surprised to be in this position. I hope I can play good so everybody knows my name.'
The race for the Order of Merit title is coming down the stretch, and Lee Westwood made huge strides on Saturday in becoming the first man break the tape.
Westwood, who currently trails Darren Clarke by roughly $90,000, fired a third-round 4-under-par 68 to move into a tie for 8th with Michael Campbell, Vijay Singh and Bob May. Meanwhile, Clarke resides in a tie for 30th after rounds of 74-70-74.
Westwood must finish inside the top eight this week to have any chance of overtaking his stablemate. If the Englishman finishes 7th, then Clarke must move inside the top 25 to hold on to the top spot, and become the first man other than Colin Montgomerie to win the Order of Merit since 1992.
'The Order of Merit is in my hands,' Westwood said. 'I have given myself a great chance. If I finish second or third, there is nothing Darren can do about it.'