Stenson takes 1-shot lead at Bay Hill; Woods 5 back
By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Henrik Stenson did just enough right and was happy enough to take a one-shot lead in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, even if he wishes it could have been more.
Stenson missed a short birdie putt and a 12-foot eagle attempt on the back nine Saturday, had his tee shot knocked down by a gust of wind that led to bogey and closed out a 1-under 71 to go into the final round with another chance to win at Bay Hill.
"I was looking for a little better," Stenson said. "But I'm still in the lead."
Bryson DeChambeau also missed his share of chances in a round of 72 and was one shot behind.
More troublesome was the number of players that are still very much in range, and one of them could be Tiger Woods.
Rory McIlroy made eagle on No. 12 and birdied two of his last three holes and was two shots behind. He will be in the penultimate group with Justin Rose, who shot a 67 while playing in the same group with Woods and the massive crowd and wound up three shots behind. Ryan Moore (67) also was three back.
Woods made another bold play on the par-5 16th, this time with his ball near the lip of a bunker. Instead of pitching out to the fairway, he hit a shot over the trees and the water that set up a two-putt birdie, and he hit sand wedge into the 18th for a 12-foot birdie putt and a 69.
Woods was five shots behind.
"I'm within reach if I shoot a really, really low round tomorrow," Woods said.
Of his record eight victories at Bay Hill, Woods has led six times and was tied for the lead another time. His lone comeback also was from five shots behind in 2009, when he rallied to beat Sean O'Hair with a 67 in the final round.
Woods has nine players in front of him, and they have some pedigree.
It starts with Stenson, who has reason to believe he is overdue at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He had a one-shot lead with four holes to play in 2015 when he had consecutive three-putts -- one for bogey, another for par -- and Matt Every beat him with an 18-foot birdie on the last hole. A year later, Stenson was tied for the lead on the back nine until dropping two shots and tying for third.
"I've been up in the mix and let's hope for a different outcome tomorrow," Stenson said.
DeChambeau, who won the John Deere Classic a year ago for his first PGA Tour title, hung with Stenson throughout the warm afternoon on greens that were getting crispy and fast. He took his only lead when Stenson fanned a 3-wood off the tee at No. 8 and had to lay up short of the water in making bogey. He fell no more than two shots behind, closing the margin when Stenson bogeyed the 17th.
He, too, missed an opportunity to pull away with Stenson. And with his lack of experience, DeChambeau couldn't help but look over his shoulder at McIlroy and Rose, or even Rickie Fowler four shots behind, and yes, Woods.
"Unfortunately, just didn't go my way today," he said. "But tomorrow there's one more day, one back, got a lot of guys behind me that are lurking."
He paused to smile before mentioning players who were lurking.
"I've got to go deep tomorrow," he added.
McIlroy has gone 26 tournaments since his last victory at the Tour Championship in 2016 to win the FedEx Cup. He has a chance to change that, which is all he wanted.
"I started the day just outside the top 10 and wanted to at least give myself a chance going into tomorrow, so it was a great day out there," he said. "I can't really ask for much more. I'll hopefully be within two or three of the lead, and I can make a run at it."
Fowler was tied for the lead briefly until a long three-putt on the par-3 14th and a messy finish. He bogeyed the 17th from a front bunker, and then from the 18th fairway, he pulled his approach into a buried lie in the bunker, left it in the sand and took double bogey for a 70.
Woods avoided falling behind early when he holed a 40-foot birdie putt on No. 3, hit a beautiful bump into a slope below the green on the par-5 fourth hole to set up birdie and holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 sixth. He also made a few mistakes that slowed his momentum and caught some tough lies in the bunkers, but still managed to have his ninth straight round at par or better. That's his longest such stretch in five years.
"I played well, scored well, it was a good day all around," Woods said. "Can't complain about anything I did today. I really hit the ball solidly, I controlled it, and I hit a lot of beautiful putts. Some went in, some didn't."