Henrik Stenson shot a 1-under 71 at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational to get to 12 under on the week and take a one-stroke lead over Bryson DeChambeau (-11) and two over Rory McIlroy (-10) heading into Sunday. Stenson started strong with a birdie at the first, but his 29-hole bogey-less streak finally ended on the 8th hole as he narrowly missed saving par. He added another birdie at No. 9 and two more bogeys and birdies on the back nine for the 71.
He's joined atop the leaderboard by former major winners McIlroy (-10), Justin Rose (-9) and Tiger Woods (-7). Rickie Fowler (-8) and Patrick Reed (-7) are also in the mix. It's a loaded leaderboard with Ryder Cuppers and Hall-of-Famers everywhere you look, which should lead to a terrific Round 4 (more on that below).
This tournament is Stenson's to lose, though. He had five consecutive top 15s at Bay Hill before a missed cut here last season. And he's been outstanding all week. Stenson is in the top 10 in this field from tee to green, in approach shots and on the greens. His three bogeys on Saturday mean he still has just four overall for the tournament, and he remains the +165 Vegas favorite after 54 holes.
No matter how it goes down on Sunday, it's probably going to be a bit of a thrill ride. Saturday's weather permitted five rounds of 67 or better, and that's definitely in play again on Sunday.
Here are five takeaways from Round 3 of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
1. Stenson's bad day? It felt like Sunday's 71 was Stenson's "hold on tight and don't blow the tournament" day and that he'll rebound with a 68 or 69 on Sunday. That could be untrue, of course, but his history at Bay Hill and his form over the first few days tell me he's not going anywhere and that somebody is going to have to go pretty low to upend him. Watching stars try and reel off victories as frontrunners is always fantastic, but with the group that's chasing Stenson, this one should be especially juicy.
2. Fowler was fabulous, Rose was better: Fowler got it to 5 under on the day before making bogey or double at three of his last five. Regardless, it's been great to see him and McIlroy get their games in order just three weeks before the Masters. Fowler leads the field in strokes gained on approach shots and, maybe more importantly, is top 25 in putting. That's been the area where he's really struggled so far in 2018, but it has not been much of an issue this week. His problem came on the final hole when a buried bunker shot led to double bogey and took him out of the penultimate pairing with McIlroy.
Instead, that honor will go to Rose, who matched McIlroy's 5-under 67 on Saturday. Rose, who played with Tiger early, has quietly been magnificent over the last few months. He's finished in the top 10 in 12 of his last 14 worldwide events and has three wins in that span. Between him, Stenson and McIlroy, Sunday at Bay Hill is going to be a nice little Ryder Cup reunion.
3. Rory closed hard: McIlroy played the final seven holes in 4 under, and that included an eagle as well as the shot of the round on No. 18. As broadcaster Johnny Miller bemoaned McIlroy's trips to the gym and said he would have played better golf over the last five years if he hadn't bulked up, McIlroy stuffed a shot to two feet for the birdie and 67.
"I worked on my swing a little bit," McIlroy told NBC about the difference between last week's missed cut and being in contention this week. "I found something I could go with into this week and hopefully beyond. Freed up a little bit with my putting. I became a little more instinctive with that, a little more reactive. I came into this week really positive. It's a golf course I've played well before. I felt a little more in control of my game, in control of my swing."
Rory three back having lost three penalty strokes off the tee Thursday 👀— Jake Nichols (@jalnichols) March 17, 2018
93% from 3 to 12 feet too
He nearly won this event last year after starting the final round five back of the leaders. He's much closer this time around, and could notch his first win in a year and a half.
4. Patrick Reed's roller coaster: Can I interest you in the most colorful scorecard of the week?
- 1 eagle
- 18 birdies
- 24 pars
- 9 bogeys
- 2 double bogeys
Add it all up, and Reed is 7 under on the week. I would say he's out of it, but with how well he's scoring, Reed coming out in red and black on Sunday and shooting a 64 to upstage everybody -- including Tiger Woods -- doesn't really feel that far out of the realm of possibility.
5. Enjoy the ride on Sunday: This is the last huge Sunday we'll get until Augusta in three weeks. Between Tiger going a little earlier than the leaders, Rose, McIlroy and Fowler chasing and Iceman and The Scientist trying to shut it down late, we're in for a jewel. Next week's WGC-Dell Match Play and the Houston Open the following week should be terrific, but they won't deliver the caliber or depth of drama Sunday's finale will. In the words of the immortal Bart Scott: Can't wait!
The rest of our Round 3 notes can be found below. If you are unable to view the live application below, please click here.
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