Arnold Palmer would have loved this incredible day of golf



ORLANDO, Fla. — Sometimes, you get days like this in golf.

Days when there are so many fireworks going off in the same tournament it becomes dizzying, your head constantly on a swivel.

If you were fortunate enough to be on the grounds at Bay Hill on Saturday for the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, you would have been at one hole thinking you were in the place to be and then you would have heard a thunderous roar from the other side of the golf course and felt like you had missed something.

Because you would have.

By the time this wild day ended, 47-year-old Englishman Lee Westwood was alone in the lead at 11-under thanks to the 7-under 65 he shot Saturday, accentuated by the 28-foot birdie putt he buried on 18.

Right behind Westwood are Bryson DeChambeau and 36-hole leader Corey Conners, both of whom are 10-under, DeChambeau shooting 68 and Conners 71.

Jordan Spieth, who had the rollercoaster round of the tournament (68) that included a hole-in-one and about three miles in putts made, and Keegan Bradley, who shot the low round of the week (64), are two shots back at 9-under.

Tommy Fleetwood is at 8-under and very much in contention. So, too, is 2018 winner Rory McIlroy, who’s 7-under after an indifferent even-par round Saturday.

Westwood, whose last PGA Tour victory came more than a decade ago, said he’s “looking forward to’’ Sunday’s final round, adding that this week “just shows that I’m still capable of playing well in these tournaments with all the good young players around me and obviously contending, because that’s what I’m doing this week.’’

Byrson DeChambeau and Jordan Spieth
Bryson DeChambeau and Jordan Spieth
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Long before the lead groups teed off Saturday, there was defending champion Tyrrell Hatton, scorching Bay Hill with a 6-under 66 to vault into contention at 6-under.

Shortly after Hatton completed his sterling round, Spieth went to work, beginning what became one of his most memorable rounds in recent memory.

Spieth made a 19-foot putt for birdie on the first hole to get to 6-under. Then he had a hole-in-one on the 222-yard second hole, bouncing a 5-iron onto the front right fringe and rolling it into the cup. That vaulted him to 8-under, one shot off the lead at the time.

It was Spieth’s third career hole-in-one in competition and the first on the Bay Hill second hole in 13 years.

“Dream start,’’ Spieth said.

Spieth’s round did not cease being interesting with that ace, though.

He hit his tee shot into the water on No. 3 and saved par anyway by making a 33-footer. He saved par on the fifth hole with a 15-foot putt. Then came a 71-foot hole-out for birdie from a greenside bunker on the par-3, seventh hole.

At that point, Spieth was 4-under through seven holes, despite hitting only one fairway, and he had taken seven putts. He hit only 6 of 14 fairways for the day.

“It was just another round that, unfortunately, wasn’t boring for me,’’ Spieth said.

As Spieth was playing the seventh, DeChambeau was just behind him, standing on the tee at the 531-yard, par-5 over a large lake.

All week, DeChambeau has been insisting that, with the right wind, he was going to try to drive over the lake to the green. The wind help wasn’t to his liking the first two rounds.

On Saturday, it was.

DeChambeau unleashed a 370-yard bomb over the lake that actually ran too far past the fairway and green. As soon as he made contact, DeChambeau raised both arms in victory as the gallery around the tee went wild.

Even fellow players at nearby holes — Spieth from the seventh hole and McIlroy as he was finishing the fifth — stopped to watch.

DeChambeau went on to birdie the sixth to get to 9-under and move into a tie for the lead.

The rest of the day felt like a blur. Spieth forged to a two-shot lead before, as he said, he “leaked oil coming in.’’ Bradley, the former St. John’s star, went crazy low.

And, oh yes, there was another hole-in-one, this one by Jazz Janewattananond on the 212-yard, 14th hole to get him to 7-under, his score at the end of the day.

Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer, has been at the tournament this week as only a host, unable to play because of an injury from a recent skiing accident. He thought of his grandfather as he watched the non-stop action.

“He would be loving this,’’ Saunders said to Golf Channel’s Steve Sands. “To see this leaderboard and all these incredible shots, big numbers and hole in ones.’’

Sometimes you get these days in golf.

And when you do, you cherish them.


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