Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy shoot Saturday 65s to get into contention at Bay Hill

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy shoot Saturday 65s to get into contention at Bay Hill

PGA Tour

Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy shoot Saturday 65s to get into contention at Bay Hill

ORLANDO – Well, some of golf’s best finally showed up.

Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy made up for lackluster opening 36-hole performances by firing third-round 7-under 65s at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, scorching Bay Hill Club & Lodge as they each rose more than 35 spots on the leaderboard.

Fowler started Saturday 2 over, 12 back, and barely made it to the weekend as the cut came in at 3 over. It looked like a mediocre finish was in order in Orlando, Fla., for the 28-year-old when he double bogeyed the par-4 third early in his third round.

But this is Rickie Fowler. He followed that unfortunate six with three straight birdies. And then he reached the back nine.

Fowler birdied 10, 12, 13 and 15 (as well as making a miraculous par from the water at 11), and put an exclamation point on a 13-hole stretch he played in 9 under with this beautiful eagle putt at the par-5 16th.

Pars at the last two holes meant a 65 and put Fowler at 5 under through 54 holes. That jumped Fowler from T-58 to T-9.

Fowler has played well of late, finishing T-4 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, winning the Honda Classic and placing T-16 at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

Fowler’s best finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational is a T-3 in 2013.

Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy has never had a top 10 at Bay Hill. Then again, this is just his third start in the event.

But that could change Sunday, as McIlroy’s bogey-free 65 pushed him from T-46 to T-7. He’s 6 under, and, after starting the day 11 shots back, he’ll likely to be around five back of the lead heading into the final round.

McIlroy got the job done Saturday in steady style. A two-birdie, seven-par front nine led into a back nine that started birdie-birdie-birdie and ended birdie-birdie. It was a bogey-free round with a closing 31 – that actually would have lost to Fowler’s back-nine 30.

McIlroy, 27, will likely improve on his T-11 here in 2015. The Northern Irishman sat out seven weeks earlier this year to rest a rib fracture but has been on his game when he’s played. McIlroy finished second at the European Tour’s SMW SA Open in January and placed T-7 two weeks ago at the WGC-Mexico Championship after holding the 36-hole lead.

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