Scottie Scheffler and Viktor Hovland sit one-shot behind Kurt Kitayama heading into the final round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, with the defending champion Scheffler looking to claim the No 1 spot in the world rankings with a win.
Last Updated: 05/03/23 12:16am
Tyrrell Hatton and Rory McIlroy are in contention at the Arnold Palmer Invitational as Kurt Kitayama shot an even-par 72 to take a one-shot lead into Sunday.
Hatton, who was victorious at the event in 2020, sits two shots behind Kitayama in fourth after shooting a bogey-free six-under 66 on Saturday.
McIlroy, too, escaped bogey-less as he finished four-under on the round to tie for fifth alongside Harris English, leaving him three shots back.
“I think any time you can go bogey-free on the weekend at Bay Hill you’re doing something right,” McIlroy said. “I got myself right into the tournament, into the thick of things for tomorrow.”
Kitayama steadied himself down the stretch as he closed with two birdies over the last three holes to leave with an even-par 72 and a one-shot advantage, the 30-year-old keeping himself pursuing a first PGA Tour victory.
Defending champion Scottie Scheffler meanwhile had five birdies over his last seven holes to finish with a 68 and one shot behind along with Viktor Hovland of Norway (66), the latter of whom was runner-up last year.
McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Max Homa all were within range of Kitayama if he were to lose ground or if Bay Hill was baked and brittle as it typically is for the final round.
For now, Kitayama held his own.
“Just proud of the way I fought,” he said.
His two-shot lead was gone when he sent his drive well to the right and out-of-bounds on the par-5 fourth hole, and he went out in 39 as Hovland planted himself at the top and McIlroy made his move with a remarkable bogey-free round of 68.
But breathing down his neck is Scheffler, who has already successfully defended one title this year at the WM Phoenix Open.
He took care of both par 5s on the back nine, hit a lob wedge at a scary pin on the 13th for birdie, and saved his best for the par-3 17th. Even with the wind at his back, his only hope was to hit something that stayed on the brick-hard green. The first thought was a soft 9-iron. He felt the wind switch and decided to hammer 9-iron, and it settled 4 feet for birdie.
Scheffler capped off his birdie-birdie-birdie finish with an approach to six feet on the 18th.
Now the Masters champion is in range of another title that could be enough to take him back to No. 1 in the world.
“Should be another fun one,” he said. “That’s what’s exciting about our new schedule. I think we’re going to have a lot more of this stuff. I’m sure Viktor’s looking to beat me this year and I’m looking to do the same. There’s a lot of talented guys on the leaderboard, though. I’m not going to be too focused on anybody else other than myself going into tomorrow.”
Jon Rahm finds himself in danger of losing top spot in the rankings, opening with a 65 before following with two straight 76s after making five straight bogeys around the turn in the third round.
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