Just when it appeared like Rory McIlroy was kicking off another one of his hot runs to possibly take over the top of the leaderboard, he hit a couple stumbling blocks in the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The world no. 1 birdied nos. 12 and 13 to get him within one shot of the leader at the time before he let a few shots get away from him, resulting in three consecutive bogeys. What a momentum killer.
McIlroy, who shot a ho-hum one-under 71, finished at nine-under, putting him in a tie for 12th and seven shots behind 54-hole leader Henrik Stenson headed into Sunday’s final round at Bay Hill. What a difference five or so holes can make.
“Everything was going really well for 13 holes,” said McIlroy. “I got myself right into the tournament and then three bogies in quick succession.
“And starting with — I didn’t hit the best of iron shots on 14 and didn’t get up and down there. 15, you know, my ball hit a spike mark with my second putt. 3-putts there. Then 16 was — just a messy three holes.”
After pushing his second shot to the right on the par-5 16th, McIlroy chunked his first chip, coming up well short and stopping on the fringe to the far left pin.
However, it all started with a bad swing on the par-3 14th, which led to a poorer chip.
“The club just got a little out in front of me and it was sort of — I cut across it,” said Rory. “I toed the iron shot basically and came up quite a long way short. It was a little bit out of the blue.
“I’m more disappointed not getting up and down because it was relatively easy, straightforward chip and run.”
After looking like he’d be in prime position to contend on Sunday afternoon, he’s likely now hoping for a top-five at best and treating the final round at Bay Hill as a final tune-up for Augusta National in a few weeks time.
“I guess if I can get off to the fast start tomorrow and maybe if I can get like 4-under through 6 or 5-under through 9 or something, maybe I will have a chance but on the back-9, as I say it would have been nicer to be a little closer to the lead going into tomorrow but I’m still there and I good score tomorrow,” said McIlroy.
Sure. Like I said, tomorrow will serve as Rory’s last warm-up before the Masters.
“Competitive golf is always good, just to sort of highlights what you still need to work on,” he said. “There’s times when I’m really comfortable and then times that I’m still not too comfortable so it’s highlighted a couple of different things but for the most part I’ve got what I wanted out of it. It would have been nice to have the lead going into tomorrow but I’ll try and make those few shots back that I left out there today and maybe, you know, give myself a chance on the back-9.”