Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a bogey-free 67 on moving day at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and will take a one-shot lead over Rory McIlroy into Sunday’s finale at the Bay Hill Club.
The 24-year old Englishman signed for a card comprised of 13 pars and five birdies, highlighted by back-to-back gains on Nos. 15 and 16 to secure the 54-hole marquee position on 9-under par.
“I just played really solid. I really like the golf course a lot, so I do feel comfortable out there,” said Fitzpatrick, who will be seeking his maiden PGA Tour title on Sunday.
“But, yeah, the plan was to hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens and do as best you can in that and yeah it sort of paid off today and then holed a few more putts, which is great.”
McIlroy, the defending champion, entered the third round seven shots off the pace, but following a low-round 66, he now finds himself just one back on 8-under par and part of Sunday’s final pairing alongside Fitzpatrick – a 2016 Ryder Cup teammate.
“I was more in control of my golf ball today, I hit more fairways, and because of that I gave myself more birdie chances and I converted a few of them. So I did everything I needed to do today to get myself back in the golf tournament and excited to have another chance tomorrow,” said McIlroy, who will be in search of PGA Tour win No. 15, and the first since last year’s API.
One further back was the trio of Aaron Baddeley (69), Matt Wallace (69), and Kevin Kisner (70), who were tied for third-place on 7-under par.
Overnight co-leader Keegan Bradley played in Saturday’s final pairing, and struggled mightily with the much-tougher afternoon conditions at Bay Hill, producing a 3-over 75 to fall back into a tie for sixth-place on 6-under par.
Chris Kirk (66), Luke List (68), Charles Howell III (69), and Rafael Cabrera Bello (70) were the others in the T6 group.
Tommy Fleetwood, the other halftime co-leader, who played alongside Bradley, also saw his wheels fall off on Saturday, carding a 4-over 76 to slide 10 spots down the board to T11 on 5-under par.
2019 ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL
THIRD-ROUND LEADERS: TOP 5
Pos-Player-Score (3rd Rd)
1. Matthew Fitzpatrick -9 (-5)
2. Rory McIlroy -8 (-6)
3. Matt Wallace -7 (-3)
3. Aaron Baddeley -7 (-3)
3. Kevin Kisner -7 (-2)
THIRD-ROUND STAT LEADERS
Driving: Luke List – 313.4 yards (T6)
Fairways: Ryan Moore – 36/42, 85.7% (T45)
Greens: Jhonattan Vegas – 42/54, 77.8% (T32)
Tot Accuracy: Kevin Kisner – 73/96 76.0% (T3)
Putts/GIR: Rafael Cabrera Bello – 1.500 (T6)
Via PGA TOUR Youtube
How do you handle the kind of balance of playing with Rory tomorrow, the excitement and the attention that will generate, versus not getting too caught up in it or overawed by it or any of that kind of stuff?
MATTHEW FITZPATRICK: I think I’m a bit lucky, I’ve sort of rented a place in Jupiter now for a little bit and become probably a little bit close with Rory, just hitting balls alongside him and just become a bit for friendly.
I think that having that I know what it’s like, I’ve played with him before, I played with him last year in Abu Dhabi and we were sort of both in the later groups. I just think it’s, well as best as I can — I know how the fans feel about Rory over here and as best as I can just try and take it as a sort of friendly game of golf, if you can.
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