He played in the final group Saturday with Camilo Villegas, whose picture can be found in magazines that Rollins doesn't even read, and Charley Hoffman, who grew up in San Diego and had plenty of supporters at Torrey Pines.
Despite three-putt bogeys on three of his final seven holes, Rollins hit enough solid shots on the South Course for a 2-under 70 and had the outright 54-hole lead for the first time in his nine years on the PGA Tour.
He got up from his chair in the press center as Villegas arrived, and the Colombian playfully said, "Go on, get out of here."
"You're the star," Rollins replied.
Rollins doesn't seem to mind. He has two PGA Tour victories, but currently is camped at No. 199 in the world ranking after a dismal year in which his swing was altered after he lost 40 pounds.
"Obviously, everybody wants to see 'Spider-Man' do his thing. Yes, the cover of all the magazines, all that kind of stuff," Rollins said. "I was just out there doing my job, and I had fun with it. I think as the round got going, and I did have the lead, I think there were some fans that start to sort of cheer me on and try to keep me going.
"But it was definitely a two-man fight in the gallery's eyes."
It might be a two-man battle Sunday on the South Course, although that depends on Rollins.
After missing a 4-foot par putt on the 18th hole, Rollins was at 12-under 204. He has had a share of the 54-hole lead three times without winning, but this is the first time he has some wiggle room.
Villegas had a one-shot lead to start the round and was five behind at the turn after a double bogey on the par-5 ninth when his bunker shot flew into the gallery. But he steadied himself the rest of the way for a 2-over 74, leaving him at 207. They will be joined in the final group by Nick Watney, who shot a 71 and was five shot out of the lead.
"Unfortunately, I made a couple mistakes that set me a little bit back," Villegas said. "But it's OK. I'll come back tomorrow with a good attitude and give it my best."
Paul Goydos nearly holed out a wedge on the final hole and tapped in for birdie for a 72, putting him at 210 with Luke Donald (71). The group another shot behind included Hoffman, who provided his hometown fans with the wrong kind of treat when they were able to watch him tee off twice on the opening hole.
Hoffman's first tee shot went into a pine tree and never came out. He spotted one ball with a pair of binoculars, tossed an umbrella to dislodge it from the tree, but it wasn't hit. After five minutes, he had to trudge back to the tee box and reload, opening with a triple bogey. He made up those shots five holes later, but ultimately settled for a 74.
Rollins realizes that can happen to him, even after playing the South Course - site of the U.S. Open last year - in 10-under par the last two rounds. He helped Hoffman try to find his ball. And he watched Villegas get careless on the ninth for a double bogey.
"This course can grab you if you don't pay attention," Rollins said.
Villegas rebounded with a 3-iron into 8 feet for birdie on the par-3 11th, followed by a solid par on the 12th hole, where Rollins had the first of his three-putts on the back nine.
That stretch is among the toughest on the South Course, and it enabled Villegas to stay in the game.
"I was happy about that," he said. "Did it save the tournament? Who knows? There's still a lot of golf to be played."
Phil Mickelson's hopes ended on Saturday when he failed to get going and shot a 73, leaving him 11 shots behind.
"Not what I was hoping for," Mickelson said. "I thought a good round would get me back in it, and I didn't get off to the best start, but it was playing tough today, and I just didn't quite put it together."
British Open and PGA champion Padraig Harrington had another 74 and was at 3-over 219.
Charles Warren and Lucas Glover, teammates at Clemson were at 5-under 211, and only one of them expected to be in the hunt when the week began. Warren, who lost his full card last year, began his season on the easier North Course and opened with a 74.
But he stayed alive with a 69 on the South on Friday, then followed that with a 68.
"If you play well, you can shoot a good score," Warren said.
Rollins didn't get much notice from a gallery torn between Hoffman's hometown fans and Villegas with his magazine-cover looks.
But they began paying attention when his 6-iron from a bunker stopped 10 feet away from a dangerous hole location on the fourth for a birdie that gave him the lead, and he never gave it back.
Divots:@ Jason Gore winced over most of his shots because of severe back pain that he first felt on the opening hole. Starting the round at 5 under, he wound up with an 80. ... Because 85 players made the cut, there was a 54-hole cut to low 70 and ties, eliminating 14 players Saturday. That group included Chris Stroud, who was tied for 12th until shooting an 82.