The Associated PressORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Charley Hoffman would have been happy to get off the 18th hole at Bay Hill with a par and go into the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational within one shot of the lead. With one big putt, Saturday turned out better than he could have imagined.
From trampled grass left of the 18th fairway, a tree slightly in his way, Hoffman chose to punch a 7-iron and have it run down the firm fairway. As long as it didn’t run straight and into the water, he figured he would have a chance for par.
The ball settled 70 feet away on the fringe, and Hoffman made the putt for a birdie, a 1-under 71 and a share of the lead with Kevin Kisner.
It was quite a wild ride, even by Orlando’s standards.
Kisner, who made three birdies in a four-hole stretch around the turn, wound up three-putting from above the hole on the fringe and shot 68.
They were at 11-under 205, three shots clear of anyone else, both in position to win the first Arnold Palmer Invitational since the September death of the iconic tournament host.
“To be in a position at Arnie’s event is a special spot,” Hoffman said. “It’s right up there with competing in a major championship, there’s no question. Mr. Palmer was the King. There’s a reason why he had the name ... To keep his legacy going and his event would be something special.”
Tyrrell Hatton (67), Marc Leishman (71) and Matt Fitzpatrick (72) were three shots behind.
Rory McIlroy, who started the weekend 11 shots out of the lead, birdied his last two holes for a 65 and climbed back into contention. He was five shots behind. Rickie Fowler, also playing early before the afternoon breeze picked up, also shot a 65 and was six behind.
Kisner for so long looked to have a chance to create a big cushion. He got there with a 7-iron into 10 feet on the par-3 second, an 8-iron to 4 feet right of the flag on the eighth and a lob wedge that spun back near the hole for another short birdie putt on No. 10.
Kisner had birdie chances inside 20 feet on four of the next five holes and couldn’t convert them, and his eagle putt from just over 20 feet on the par-5 16th was short.
Even so, he was in contention, something he hasn’t felt since winning at Sea Island for his first PGA Tour title at the end of 2015.
“These guys are not afraid and they’re going to make a lot of birdies and there’s no protecting leads,” Kisner said.
61 propels Nordqvist to top
PHOENIX (AP) — Anna Nordqvist shot a tournament-record 11-under 61 to take a two-stroke lead over Stacy Lewis and Ariya Jutanugarn into the final round of the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
Lewis and Jutanugarn each shot 66 playing together for the third straight day. They have had identical scores each day, with Jutanugarn getting the spot in the final pairing with Nordqvist because her name was listed first on the tee sheet Thursday. Nordqvist played with Lewis and Jutanugarn the first two days.