MIAMI: Adam Scott moved within reach of a wire-to-wire victory on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, one that would all-but ensure he overtakes Tiger Woods for the world number one ranking.
Scott, the reigning Masters champion and first Australian to capture the green jacket, struggled to a one-under par 71 Saturday but held a three-stroke lead after the third round at Bay Hill.
Scott, who led by a tournament-record seven strokes when the day began, stood on 15-under 201 after 54 holes with American Keegan Bradley second on 204.
“It was tough,” Scott said. “I got off to a tough start and fought my way back all day.”
Scott, at Bay Hill for the first time since missing the cut in 2009, matched the course record with a 62 Thursday and equaled the 36-hole mark by following with a 68 Friday.
With 14-time major champion Woods absent due to a back injury that has jeopardized his chances of playing next month’s Masters, Scott would move just behind the American with a victory this week.
If neither Woods nor Scott play again before the Masters, as is expected, then a Bay Hill title would ensure Scott would become world number one for the first time in his career on the Monday before he defends his first major title, based upon points dropping off at the back end of the two-year ranking cycle.
Americans Matt Every and Jason Kokrak shared third on 205 with Italy’s Francesco Molinari and American Chesson Hadley on 206 and England’s Ian Poulter seventh on 208.
Scott opened with a bogey, had three birdies and two bogeys over the last six holes and sank a clutch seven-foot par putt at 18, a hole on which he made bogey each of the first two days.
A nightmare start for Scott saw his tournament-record lead of seven strokes entering the weekend reduced to a single shot after only the first 70 minutes of play.
Scott opened with a bogey, missing an eight-foot par putt, and took another at the fifth, faltering on an 11-footer for par.