Mark OMeara, J.L. Lewis and Jerry Kelly share the top spot at 10-under-par 206.
On a day when players agreed the Santa Ana winds added two-to-three shots to the difficulty of the course, OMeara and Lewis shot 70 and 71, respectively, while Kelly fired a 6-under 66 ' a record on the recently renovated South Course.
Five others are just a shot back. John Daly (68), Jay Williamson (70), Kent Jones (72), K.J. Choi (69) and Rory Sabbatini (71) are all tied at 9-under.
Williamson recorded the shot of the day, a hole-in-one on the par-3 third. He holed a 7-iron from 196 yards. Williamson also made an ace in the final round of the Buick Classic a year ago.
Tiger Woods shot 3-under 69 Saturday ' eight strokes better than his third-round score. The 1999 Buick Invitational champion resides in a tie for 20th place, six back at minus-4.
I need to get off to a start like my buddy Mark (OMeara) did on Thursday, said Woods, in reference to OMearas 31 on the front nine. Then at least Ill give myself a chance on the back nine.
OMeara's been riding a wave of confidence since his strong start. He notched four birdies and one bogey in round three. The 45-year-old is in search of his first tour title since the 1998 British Open, and said he enjoyed, once again, being in contention.
I was a little nervous out there today, OMeara said. Its a good feeling to have. I imagine Ill be a little nervous tomorrow.
Daly is another player trying to win for the first time on tour since hoisting the Claret Jug. Though he won last year at the European Tours BMW International, Daly hasn't won on the PGA Tour since his 1995 victory in St. Andrews.
Its good to be in the hunt again, he said.
Long noted for his lack of focus, Daly showed his composure Saturday when he hit his tee shot into the bushes on the par-4 seventh and had to take a penalty drop; he made bogey, but responded with a birdie on the par-5 ninth.
It just doesnt bother me like it used to, Daly said of making a mistake. I missed a lot of fairways, but I recovered real well. Thats just from hanging in there.
Daly dropped another shot on the par-3 11th, but again bounced back with an eagle on the par-5 13th. He finished his round with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 18th.
The finishing hole could be the difference Sunday between a winner in regulation or sudden death.
Daly was able to reach the green on the 571-yard hole with an iron on his second shot. Most mortals, however, have to go the three-shot route.
Kelly was one such player, forgoing an opportunity to test out his new 3-wood from 261 yards, instead laying up to 81 yards. From there he placed a pitching wedge to five feet and made the birdie.
Tomorrow, Ill probably do the same thing, Kelly said on how he played the 18th. Now, Ive got the birdie to back my decision up and it will take a little pressure off me not to go for it.
I really wanted to go for it today. It was really tough for me to take that 5-iron out. Thats what youve got to do sometimes.
Kellys patience is a newly found asset. The seven-year veteran also has another weapon at his disposal on Sunday ' confidence.
Confidence plays so much in this game, its amazing, said Kelly, who collected his first tour victory in 115 career starts at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Lewis wasnt feeling confident about his game early Saturday. The overnight co-leader bogeyed two of his first six holes, and both the par-5s on the inward half.
He did manage, however, to sprinkle in a pair of birdies on both the front and back nines.
'Hopefully, I can strike the ball (Sunday) the way I did over the last six, seven holes today,' said the 1999 John Deere Classic champion.
Full-field scores from the Buick Invitational