Tamer Bay Hill allows usual cast of API stars to make Saturday charges

ORLANDO, Florida. As the reigning Arnold Palmer Invitational champion, Scotty Scheffler is familiar with the usual progression at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge.

“One of the guys I played with in practice this week asked me what I did so well last year and I just told him, ‘I survived. It’s really what it’s like,” Scheffler said on Thursday after opening his 4th under-68 title defense. “It’s a brutal place and it’s only going to get harder as the week goes on.”

In the last three editions of the API, only once has the weekend round average been below 74. Four of the six have been above 75. And with gusty weather to follow, it’s no surprise that Scheffler felt he could hold on to level 4 for less he would into the spotlight by entering the final round on Sunday.

Full results at the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Of course, as John Rahm bluntly said on Friday, it was “heavy as hell” as strong gusts of wind made it difficult to evaluate shots. But compared to Moving Days in 2020 and last year, when most of the moves were due, this Saturday, while not by any means a bird holiday, was pretty docile.

For the first time in a long time, Bay Hill took a few bites from the leading bands.

With a scoring average of 72.833, Scheffler needed to double his target to earn a place in the penultimate pair on Sunday. His second 68 of the week, this time with five birdies on Scheffler’s last seven holes, pushed him to 8 under, one throw back, along with Victor Hovland, who tied lead Kurt Kitayama in the final group.

As for this forecast for 4 less?

“That was before they decided to cut and water the greens only once,” Scheffler said with a chuckle. “All I remember is that last year was so hard and they definitely didn’t do anything like that.”

McIlroy thinks he can win Arnold Palmer’s invitation.

McIlroy thinks he can win Arnold Palmer's invitation.

Hovland failed to hit 74 in five consecutive rounds at Bay Hill before hitting 66 on Saturday. Two years ago, he started his tournament with a score of 69-68 and then ended it with a score of 77-78. Last year, he hit 75-74 at the weekend and ended up in second place behind Scheffler.

“The first two days they usually play really, really well,” Hovland said. “Then I think they are overdoing the weekend. But this week, I think they’ve done a really good job of making sure the greens aren’t too smooth. There is still friction on the green. They also have some greenery. If you hit well, you can make the ball stop. But it’s definitely not easy.”

However, Hovland was one of four players in the top five who didn’t miss on Saturday. The other was Rory McIlroy, the 2018 API Champion, who finished worse than the T-13 just once in eight rides at Arnie’s Place.

“I think every time you can get by on a Bay Hill weekend without ghosts, you’re doing something right,” said McIlroy, who shot under-18s in the year he won here.

Looking closer at the leaderboard, the top ten included three past winners (McIlroy, Sheffler and Tyrrell Hatton), four more recent Kapper presidents (Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Max Homa and Cam Young), and current KFT top player Pearson Cudi. who sent an early 66 to get the board up to T-7. All the great forwards, especially those with long irons, and many of them neutral ball players who were given more freedom by the conditions to showcase their skills.

Sunday numbers will be about the same.

“Tomorrow the golf course will be different than what we saw: very light wind and opposite wind,” Spit said. “Perhaps quite a lot of points, I guess, because the green is already where it will be, but I don’t think it will be the same as on Tuesday or Wednesday. I don’t think it will become so hard and fast.

“So, we need to get a room.”

Highlights: Scheffler, Arnold Palmer invitation, Rd. 3

Highlights: Scheffler, Arnold Palmer invitation, Rd.  3

However, even with the warm temperatures and 5-10 mph winds forecast for Sunday (with some rain also expected), it’s hard to imagine Bay Hill bringing in much more than a low double-digit winning tally.

Asked if he expects the pre-tournament team to “attach” to the players in the final round, Scheffler quickly responded:

I would be surprised if they didn’t.


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