MIAMI: Henrik Stenson clung to a one-stroke lead after Saturday’s (Sunday in Manila) third round of the PGA Arnold Palmer Invitational while Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose surged into the title hunt.
Sweden’s Stenson, the 2016 British Open champion, fired a one-under par 71 to stand on 12-under 204 after 54 holes at Bay Hill as American Bryson DeChambeau shot 72 to stand one stroke adrift.
But the 36-hole leaders couldn’t expand their edge, allowing Rose, McIlroy and Woods among others to charge into a Sunday showdown, 12 rivals in all within five strokes of Stenson at the Orlando layout.
“I could have a two- or three-shot lead, which would have been a nice cushion, but I’ve been in the mix a few times and I’m back here trying to give it a go,” Stenson said.
Four-time major champion McIlroy, who needs only a Masters green jacket to complete a career Grand Slam, birdied two of the last three holes to fire 67.
It was the Northern Irishman’s best US PGA round since the first round last August at Akron and he stood third on 206 a week after missing the cut.
“Worked on my swing a little bit, found a feeling, found something I could go with for this week and maybe beyond,” McIlroy said.
“Freed up my putting a little bit. Felt a little bit more in control of my game. I knew if that could translate from practice onto the course, I could have a good week.”
England’s Rose made six birdies against a lone stumble, a three-putt bogey at 15, to shoot 67 and share fourth on 207 with American Ryan Moore.
South Korea’s An Byeong-hun was in a pack on 208 that also included Americans Rickie Fowler, Talor Gooch and Charley Hoffman.
And then came Woods, who birdied two of the last three holes for a 69 to share 10th on 209 with US compatriots Patrick Reed, Bud Cauley and Grayson Murray.
“I figure I’m within reach if I shoot a really, really low round tomorrow,” Woods said. “I’m going to have to shoot a low one and get a little bit of help. But my responsibility is to go out and shoot a low one first.”
Stenson had four consecutive top-10 showings between 2013 and 2016 but has yet to win at Bay Hill.
Stenson opened with a 13-foot birdie putt and answered a bogey at eight with a 30-foot birdie putt at nine. He answered a bogey at 10 with birdies at the par-5 12th and 16th, only to miss the green at the par-3 17th on the way to bogey.
“Especially with the way I played coming in, I think that I didn’t really miss a shot the last six holes,” Stenson said.