ORLANDO, Fla. — The wind was up at Bay Hill Saturday, as were the scores and players’ blood pressures.
At the end of the day, the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational set the stage for Sunday’s final round to an all-out shootout where at least a dozen players have a chance to win the coveted Palmer cardigan sweater, which features the victory – along with $2 million.
“A lot of people do that, but it’s usually what you see when a setup is like this,” said Rory McIlroy of the treacherous course conditions at Bay Hill.
“Anything can happen,” said Talor Gooch. “It’s easy for the guys who are at or near the lead to shoot 5-, 6-overs. This course will unmask you really fast. I don’t know how many guys are below average [16 players]but if you’re below average, I think you have a chance.”
For a while it looked like 36-hole leader Viktor Hovland was going to run and hide. He eventually made 10-under for the tournament when he went to the 11th tee with a four-stroke lead.
But the conditions didn’t allow the 24-year-old from Norway to break away.
Hovland retreated into the pack with bogeys in 11th, 14th, 17th and 18th to fall back to 6-under, one shot behind Gooch and Billy Horschel, who share the lead with 7-under.
Hovland, who shot 77-78 over the weekend last year after shooting 69-68 in the first 36 holes, shot 75 on Saturday.
“At least I managed to stay in somehow,” Hovland said. “That’s pretty much the only positive for today.”
Horschel, a Florida native who’s been hanging around on the leaderboard all week, shot an impressive 1-under-71. Gooch even shot par 72.
“It would be something very special,” said Horschel about a win here. “I grew up an hour from here, came here as a kid, caddyed in the Pro-Am several times. I have a lot of support from family and friends here. Then add Arnold Palmer’s name.
“I have to do a really good job of controlling my emotions more and not overestimating myself. The goal is simply to try and enjoy the process [Sunday]what enjoy [Sunday] will be approximately. I’m excited to see what [Sunday] will have in stock.”
Scottie Scheffler, who shot the windy day’s low lap at 4-under 68 to move to 5-under, is twice behind the leaders. Gary Woodland, the 2019 US Open champion, who hasn’t been heard much from since his magical week at Pebble Beach, shot 70 and advanced up the board to 4-under, three shots clear of the lead.
McIlroy, who topped the leaderboard throughout the tournament, had a bad day, shooting 76 to drop to 3-under. He is sixth with Graeme McDowell (69) and Chris Kirk (68).
Like Hovland, McIlroy endured some weekend troubles at Bay Hill. In 2020, he went into the third round with 5-under and shot 73-76 over the weekend to finish fifth with a tie. Last year he was 7-under in the third round and shot 72-76 over the weekend to drop to 10th place.
“See, it’s so tough out there, it’s so tricky,” McIlroy said. “It’s just on a knife edge like you literally say two feet here, two feet there from 200 yards can make a huge difference in where the ball lands. The course has obviously turned only a little – especially with cross winds. If you miss the fairway, it’s almost impossible to hit a green.
“I don’t want to say anything that I’m going to regret, but it’s been… I guess… the last few years, we kind of know what to expect when we get here. It only seems to be like this on weekends. It’s just hard. It’s hard not to be frustrated.”
Max Homa carded a hole-in-one on Saturday’s 14th hole, his first ace on the PGA Tour and what he reckoned the eighth of his life. It came off a pitching wedge 163 yards away.
“That was crazy,” said Homa. “The roar [from the crowd] was great. I won’t forget that.”
John Pak of Scotch Plains, NJ shot 75 and is 6-over for the week. He plays most of his tournaments on the Korn Ferry Tour. … Australia’s Matt Jones threw his putter into a lake on the 11th hole after missing a putt. When asked after his round if he would speak up about what prompted him to do so, Jones said, without breaking a step as he walked past two reporters, “No.”
https://nypost.com/2022/03/05/arnold-palmer-invitational-leaderboard-wide-open-entering-sunday/ Arnold Palmer Invitational leaderboard wide open on Sunday