ORLANDO, Fla. – After three rounds of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a familiar face sits atop the leaderboard.
Tiger Woods shot a 6-under 66 Saturday to enter the final round with a two-shot edge at 11 under. Woods is searching for his eighth title at Bay Hill. But some big names lurk close behind, as Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose and Keegan Bradley will all look to chase down Woods on Sunday.
Fowler will be paired with Woods in the final round for just the second time. Fowler shot 84 in his first Sunday pairing with Woods, at last year’s Memorial Tournament.
Here are 5 Things you need to know from Saturday’s third-round action at Arnie’s Place:
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1. RICKIE VS. TIGER, PART II: Rickie Fowler has been paired with Tiger Woods in the final group on Sunday once before. That was at last year’s Memorial Tournament. It was there that Woods shot a final-round 67 en route to winning the tournament while Fowler struggled mightily, carding an 84 and finishing 22nd.
He’s hoping things go differently this time around.
Searching for his second career PGA Tour win, Fowler shot into contention Saturday with his second straight 67 to finish the third round at 9-under 207.
Fowler got off to a hot start in the third round at Bay Hill, drilling a 4-iron to 6 inches at the par-3 second hole. He made six birdies against one bogey and had his putter working for him again. Fowler took just 24 putts and leads the field in total putts through three rounds, with 76.
“My game’s in a really good spot,” Fowler said.
Fowler hasn’t finished better than T-30 in his two previous appearances at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but he holds some good vibes for Bay Hill from winning the 2006 AJGA HP Boys Junior here.
He hasn’t been too good on Sunday as of late, either. Fowler shot 74 in the final round of The Honda Classic to finish T-13, and then carded a 78 to wrap up a T-35 finish at Doral.
“It was disappointing to play the way I did those two Sundays, but I felt really good with where I was at, putting myself in position to go win a golf tournament or have a good finish, and kind of taking myself out of it (was disappointing),” Fowler said.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow and seeing if we can go do that (finish off a tournament).”
After his round, Fowler said he had heard the weather forecast, which calls for high winds on Sunday, and said he’s rooting for the wind to blow.
“It makes it tough for everyone, but I feel like that’s one of my favorite conditions to play in is the wind,” Fowler said. “I feel like I can use the wind as my friend.”
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2. NOT-SO-ROSEY FINISH: Be it because of fatigue or something else, Justin Rose didn’t finish his round Saturday anywhere close to as well as he would’ve liked.
“It was quite funny, actually. The energy disappeared big-time,” said Rose, who was 4 under through four holes before finishing with an even-par 72 to enter the final round at 9 under, two back of Tiger.
“I don’t know if it was fatigue or (I) didn’t eat right or something, but I was struggling. My legs were going, and I made some loose swings coming down the stretch.”
Rose birdied Nos. 1 and 3 before making eagle at the par-5 fourth. His second shot at No. 4 landed just shy of the green before Rose holed his third shot for eagle to move to 13 under. He led by as many as four shots Saturday before going 4 over in his final 12 holes, a stretch that included four bogeys on the back nine.
“The back nine was a shame, but today means nothing really until tomorrow plays out,” Rose said. “So hopefully he (Tiger) doesn’t go get hot tomorrow, and then today’s just a memory.”
Rose said Saturday’s round was the hottest round temperature-wise that he’s played this year. “I really struggled to get it into the (club)house almost physically,” he said.
As far as his golf game goes, Rose has been red hot recently, as well. He has finished T-24 or better in his last 12 tournaments, including runner-up finishes at the DP World Tour Championship and Tour Championship last year. He also has top-10s in his last two events.
Having shot only two scores in the 60s in seven final rounds at the Arnold Palmer Invitational (69 in 2006, 68 in ’11), Rose hopes he can get his legs – and his “A” game – back on Sunday.
“I’m not going to think about who I’m competing against,” Rose said. “It’s going to be a day I’m going to need the putter to get hot (Rose used 28 putts Saturday). I’ve made too many bogeys the last two days, so I’ll try to limit those mistakes and wait for the putter to get hot.”
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3. LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT: Thorbjorn Olesen’s first tournament at Bay Hill is shaping up to be a nice one.
Olesen, who is also playing in his first PGA Tour event (not including major championships or World Golf Championship events), tied for the lowest round of the day, carding a 6-under 66 to enter Sunday tied for fifth at 8 under.
“I love this golf course,” Olesen said. “It’s a great course. It’s tough, and it’s got a bit of everything. I’ve been striking it nicely, (hit) a lot of fairways, (hit) a lot of greens and holed a few good putts.”
Olesen birdied five of his first six holes, finishing with seven birdies total. He also missed just three fairways, five greens and needed only 26 putts to complete his round. He totaled 32 putts in the second round.
He finished his round by sticking his approach inside 3 feet at the par-4 18th. He birdied the hole, part of his 2-under run over the final three holes.
“(No. 18) it’s a hell of a hole and a tough hole to be on, so that second shot is probably the shot of the day for me,” Olesen said.
Now ranked No. 41 in the Official World Golf Ranking, Olesen has made 13 straight cuts on the European Tour, a stretch that includes a solo second at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, a T-2 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and T-3 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. He has made 14 straight cuts in all.
Olesen has played on this side of the pond since leaving Dubai in early February, making it to the second round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play and then finishing T-53 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
His performance so far at Bay Hill indicates he’s only getting better as his play in the United States increases.
“It’s tough to say (if there’s been much of an adjustment to playing in the U.S.),” Olesen said. “This is my first week (playing the PGA Tour), and I’m just trying to play well. . . . It’s been good this week, but I’m trying to learn how to play over here and see if I can play a few more events this year on the PGA Tour, and try to win.”
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4. STILL IN IT: It wasn’t his best round of the week, but John Huh still finds himself in contention heading into Sunday after a 1-under 71. He stands tied for second at 9 under overall.
“Obviously today was a little windier than the past two days we played,” Huh said. “(The course) was playing a little tough, I thought, (but) I feel like I ended pretty good.”
Huh birdied the par-3 17th and then nearly got an 18-footer for birdie to drop on No. 18 to finish strong. He hopes to carry that momentum over to Sunday where he’ll try to win his second career PGA Tour event.
It hasn’t been a great sophomore year so far for last year’s rookie of the year. After 12 top-25 finishes in 2012, Huh has just one in eight events this season. He has made just four cuts, as well.
He is also trying for his best finish in this event. Huh made the cut in his first Bay Hill start last season, but a final-round 81 dropped him to T-73.
“I really like where I’m at,” Huh said. “It’s easier for me to chase him (Tiger). I think it’s easier for me mentally, so I’m going to go have fun out there and play my game.”
Asked what he thinks he needs to shoot to have a chance at victory Sunday, Huh joked, “I guess (I have) to shoot 59.”
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Playing with Tiger for the first time since last year’s WGC-Accenture Match Play, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano shot 4-under 68 to enter the final round tied for fifth at 8 under. Three shots back of Tiger, Fernandez-Castano said, “I think I’m going to need my best out there tomorrow.” . . . The best round of the day, 6-under 66, was shot by four players: Woods, Olesen, Keegan Bradley and Matt Every, who has never finished better than T-24 in three starts at Bay Hill. Every stands T-20 at 3 under. . . . Mike Weir withdrew during the third round due to a rib injury. Weir shot 76-70 during the first two rounds.
Adam Schupak contributed to this report