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Dublin: 10°C Sunday 9 May 2021

McIlroy charges into second place with brilliant Saturday at Bay Hill

McIlroy is one shot behind Matt Fitzpatrick as he bids for back-to-back wins at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

McIlroy: seven birdies and just one bogey on Saturday.
McIlroy: seven birdies and just one bogey on Saturday.
Image: Phelan M. Ebenhack

RORY MCILROY IS in prime position to defend his title after playing his way into the final group at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

McIlroy has not won a tournament since his victory here 12 months ago but charged into second place with a Saturday 66.

England’s Matt Fitzpatrick shot 67 to take a one-shot lead into the final day and complete the final pairing alongside McIlroy [5.45pm Irish time].

“It’ll be a fun day,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’ve become good friends with him. He has got a ton of fans over here. It’s exciting. I’ve put myself in a good position. I’m looking forward to it.”

Aaron Baddeley, Matt Wallace and Kevin Kisner are tied for third on seven-under par but McIlroy — who began the third round seven shots off the pace — said plenty of rivals are within reach of the title.

“It’s so bunched,” McIlroy said. “I’d still say the two- and three-unders still have a chance to win the tournament.”

The four-time Major champion birdied four of the first six holes and three of the last four holes while taking his lone bogey at the par-four eighth.

“I’ve just been trying to play high cuts into every single pin I can look at. It’s the only way I feel like I can stop the ball near the pin,” McIlroy said.

“I knew the key for me today was to hit fairways. The greens are so pure. Whenever you start them on line they have a good chance.”

He added: “This golf course has played much tougher from the beginning compared to previous years. The course is going to get tougher as it goes along.

“The greens are getting so firm and so fast out there, anything above the hole you’re going to have trouble getting it to stop.”

Graeme McDowell, who could earn one of the three qualification places on offer for the Open Championship if he finishes inside the top 10, starts Sunday on four-under par in a tie for 17th — five shots behind Fitzpatrick.

See the full leaderboard here >

Updated 10.28: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that McIlroy shot 67 on Saturday; he shot 66.

© AFP 2019  

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