ORLANDO, Fla. — Matt Fitzpatrick managed to keep away from bogeys on a Bay Hill course so agency he may barely discover any pitch marks on the greens Saturday. It led to a five-under-par 67 and a one-shot lead over Rory McIlroy going into the ultimate spherical of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
McIlroy, who has not efficiently defended any of his 22 wins worldwide, birdied three of his final 4 holes for a 66. He can be within the closing group for the third time in 5 occasions this 12 months.
Fitzpatrick was at nine-under 207, which spoke to the problem of a quick course that might have made Palmer proud. It was the best 54-hole rating to steer at Bay Hill since Ben Crenshaw was at 210 in 1993.
That would have stunned nobody who needed to play it, particularly late within the heat afternoon, with greens that seemed yellow and fairways that felt tighter in such agency circumstances.
Fitzpatrick, a five-time winner on the European Tour over the past 4 years, mentioned that he was not conscious that Keegan Bradley and Tommy Fleetwood, the leaders after 36 holes, had rapidly gone in reverse. But it didn’t take him lengthy to determine it out. He hit a sand wedge from 115 yards to only inside 10 ft, and he couldn’t even discover the place the ball landed.
“So when you see that, you know it’s going to be in for tough, fiery greens,” Fitzpatrick mentioned. “But the condition of the greens is fantastic and they have been all week, so I think that that’s what make it’s so great.”
McIlroy hit a pitching wedge that settled a foot away for a tap-in on the 15th, hit a pitch over the bunker from proper of the inexperienced on the par-5 16th for a Four-foot birdie, after which completed with one other pitching wedge to 10 ft for one final birdie.
Those birdies had been huge. The pars weren’t unhealthy, both.
“I felt for part of the round today that I was hanging on,” mentioned McIlroy, who trailed by two pictures after three rounds final 12 months. “You hit it up to 25, 30 feet, you take your two-putts, you move on and know you’re not going to lose any ground on the field.”
There are loads of others nonetheless within the combine. Fitzpatrick seemed on the digital chief board subsequent to him and figured each title had a probability. There had been 15 names, all 5 pictures or much less off the lead. And if the board had been one line larger, it could have proven Fleetwood, who made a 6-foot putt on the 18th gap for his first birdie of the day and a 76. He additionally was 5 again.
“Today someone was saying it’s a bit like a U.S. Open, which I could totally see,” Fitzpatrick mentioned. “It only takes a couple of water balls from the top five guys, a few dropped shots early, and all of a sudden you sort of are not looking like you’re in a great position.”
Bradley didn’t have a par till the sixth gap, and just one of these was a birdie. He missed the green on No. 1 (bogey), hit into a bunker on No. 2 (bogey), three-putted for bogey on No. three and had one other bogey from the bunker on No. 5.
He rolled in a 35-foot birdie putt on the 18th for a 75, and whereas that huge fist pump appeared out of place for somebody who endured such a powerful day, he had motive to cheer. After all that, Bradley was simply three pictures behind, as had been 4 others.
Aaron Baddeley and Matt Wallace every had a 69, and Kevin Kisner had a 70. They had been at 209, nonetheless very a lot within the recreation.
McIlroy sees some similarities to his victory final 12 months at Bay Hill. He began slowly and started to hit his stride, enjoying a little bit higher every day. He additionally went to at least one of the Disney parks after ending early Friday, similar to final 12 months when he was at Magic Kingdom and rode Space Mountain.
This 12 months’s journey?
“Tower of Terror,” he mentioned, and that could be applicable if the circumstances at Bay Hill keep this fashion.
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