Rory McIlroy makes telling move on the back of 66 at Bay Hill

Defending champion now just one off Matthew Fitzpatrick’s lead at Arnold Palmer Invitational

Rory McIlory sinks a birdie putt on the 18th hole to complete a third round of six-under 66 at the   Arnold Palmer Invitational  at the Bay Hill  in Orlando, Florida. Photograph: Michael Cohen/Getty Images

Rory McIlory sinks a birdie putt on the 18th hole to complete a third round of six-under 66 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida. Photograph: Michael Cohen/Getty Images

 

Defending champion Rory McIlroy blazed his way right into contention at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando on Saturday with a third round of six-under 66 moving him to eight under.

That left the world number six one shot off the lead, held by England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick after he carded a 67.

Starting the day seven shots off overnight leaders Tommy Fleetwood and Keegan Bradley, McIlroy got off to a brilliant start on a warm day at Bay Hill, making four birdies in the first six holes to move on to the first page of the leaderboard .

His only bogey of the day would come on the eighth hole after he found a greenside bunker as he turned in three-under 33.

McIlroy started the back nine with five straight pars but put in a storming finish with three birdies over the final four holes.

Bradley’s challenge fell apart early on with four bogeys in his first five holes as he went out in 40, eventually signing for a three-over 75 to slip back to six under.

Fleetwood, who included a double bogey on the 10th, ended up with a four-over 76 and five under overall.

McIlroy has finished in the top five in all four starts on the PGA Tour this year, including second spot at the WGC-Mexico Championship last time out.

And the Northern Ireland golfer believes he can go one better and defend his title on Sunday.

“I’m feeling good, this was a great round to play to get myself back into contention,” McIlroy told Sky Sports.

“ I’m feeling good about my game, I have been feeling good all year. It’s just a matter of doing the right things and doing them day after day.

“And if I do all those, maybe tomorrow’s the day, maybe tomorrow’s the day that I can put it all together and shoot another good round of golf and hopefully that will be good enough.”

Graeme McDowell fired four birdies and a single bogey in a fine three-under 69 that moved him to four under.

Playing on a tournament invite, McDowell birdied three of the four par-5s and showed McIlroy how to do it with a birdie on the tough eighth hole.

LEADERBOARD
(USA unless stated, par 72):

207 Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng) 70 70 67

208 Rory McIlroy (NIrl) 72 70 66

209 Aaron Baddeley (Aus) 70 70 69, Matt Wallace (Eng) 71 69 69, Kevin Kisner 70 69 70

210 Keegan Bradley 67 68 75, Luke List 70 72 68, Chris Kirk 71 73 66, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Esp) 65 75 70, Charles Howell III 74 67 69

211 Jason Kokrak 70 73 68, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 69 66 76, Tyrrell Hatton (Eng) 70 75 66, Bubba Watson 68 72 71, Martin Kaymer (Ger) 72 69 70, Sungjae Im (Kor) 71 69 71

212 Francesco Molinari (Ita) 69 70 73, Graeme McDowell (NIrl) 68 75 69, Sung Kang (Kor) 69 72 71, Lucas Glover 70 71 71, Billy Horschel 68 71 73, Henrik Stenson (Swe) 77 66 69

213 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 72 70 71, Carlos Ortiz (Mex) 72 71 70, Roger Sloan (Can) 70 69 74, Byeong-Hun An (Kor) 72 72 69, Chesson Hadley 71 71 71, Adam Hadwin (Can) 70 75 68, Kevin Streelman 70 72 71, Brendan Steele 70 71 72, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha) 71 70 72

214 Adam Schenk 70 73 71, Pat Perez 69 73 72, Scott Piercy 74 70 70, Adam Long 74 71 69, Marc Leishman (Aus) 72 70 72, Ian Poulter (Eng) 73 68 73, Patrick Rodgers 68 73 73, Keith Mitchell 71 68 75, Jhonattan Vegas (Ven) 69 70 75

215 Beau Hossler 76 66 73, Ryan Blaum 73 72 70, Sam Saunders 73 68 74, Johnson Wagner 71 72 72

216 JT Poston 71 72 73, Scott Stallings 69 74 73, Aaron Wise 72 70 74, J.J. Spaun 71 70 75, Rickie Fowler 74 71 71, Patrick Reed 70 70 76, Ryan Moore 71 72 73

217 DA Points 72 71 74, Zach Johnson 70 71 76, Sam Horsfield (Eng) 74 69 74, Sam Ryder 74 69 74, Hudson Swafford 70 74 73, Viktor Hovland (a) (Nor) 74 70 73, Harris English 76 69 72

218 Justin Rose (Eng) 71 70 77, Joaquin Niemann (Chi) 71 71 76, Tim Herron 72 70 76, Sam Burns 76 69 73, Brandt Snedeker 73 71 74

219 Hunter Mahan 76 69 74, Bryson DeChambeau 75 70 74, Eddie Pepperell (Eng) 72 68 79

220 Steve Stricker 75 69 76, Martin Trainer 70 71 79

222 Jimmy Walker 70 71 81

223 Anirban Lahiri (In) 74 69 80

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