5 Things: Bradley cuts into Scott's lead; more
Saturday’s third round started as the potential coronation of Australian Adam Scott, but the golfing gods would have none of that. From a seven shot lead, Scott is just three shots clear of Keegan Bradley and four from Matt Every and Jason Kokrak.
Scott’s 1-under, 71 was his worst round by three shots and nine-shots higher than his course record tying 62 in Thursday’s first round.
Starting the day, none of the potential challengers were thinking about winning – just whittling down Scott’s lead. That happened almost immediately when the Masters champ bogeyed the first hole and soon followed with a bogey on the fifth hole to fall to 2 over for the day, seeing his seven shot lead dissipate to just one as Chesson Hadley recorded four birdies on the first six holes.
But Scott made a birdie about the same time Hadley made a bogey and the lead again was up to three shots, where it would eventually stay going into Sunday’s final round.
Scott will start Sunday at 15 under and paired with Bradley who shot a 66 and is at 12-under. (See complete final-round tee times and pairings here.)
Every, after a 66, and Kokrak, after a 67, are tied for third at 11-under.
Both Hadley and Italian Francesco Molinari shot 3-under 69s and are tied for fifth at 10 under.
Here are 5 Things to know from Bay Hill, beginning with Bradley getting close to the winner's circle again.
PHOTOS: Arnold Palmer Invitational, Round 3
View images from Round 3 of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard at Bay Hill Club and Lodge.
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1. WAND AGAINST WAND: Adam Scott and Keegan Bradley have a couple of things in common. Both have won major championships, Scott last year at Augusta and Bradley at the 2011 PGA Championship.
They both have also won the same WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Scott in 2011 and Bradley in 2012.
But Sunday they will both be using a long putter, Scott’s the broomstick variety and Bradley the belly putter.
Both have said that their putters have warmed up this week making their fair share of the 15-20 foot length putts, which will be needed on Sunday take home the trophy.
Scott's accomplishments over the last year or so have been earmarked with victories all over the globe. Bradley, not so much.
“I've played really solidly the whole year,” Bradley said. “I've missed three top-10s by a shot. I'm right there basically without making a putt. So just finally I'm seeing some putts go in. It's just such a great feeling.”
In Bradley’s three victories, he was behind going into the final round. At the 2011 Byron Nelson, Bradley was four shots back and won in a playoff. At the PGA Championship, Bradley was one shot back and won in a playoff.
His last win came from four shots back at Bridgestone, his only win without the need for a playoff.
“I'm really anxious to win a tournament, that's for sure,” Bradley said. “But I'm going to go out tomorrow and play my hardest, play my best. I would love to get a win before Augusta.”
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2. DRIVER, DRIVER, WHERE’S THE DRIVER: Graeme McDowell gained back all the ground he had lost Friday, following his 5-over 77 with a smooth, 5-under 67 Saturday. That creates not with a chance to win, but a chance to have a good week.
Most of the reason for the dramatic turnaround was simple: His driver misbehaved and was benched for an older, more reliable model.
“I put that new Srixon driver in the bag all year,” McDowell said. “It's been good but I haven't been trusting directionally with it. I hit it very averagely on Thursday, but my misses on Thursday were just flailing to the right, and you can talk to the one that's going right. You can't talk to those left balls that I was hitting yesterday.
It was ugly.
McDowell had been hitting the ball well and wasn’t panicked by his driving inaccuracies, but knew he needed to find a fix.
After his round Friday, McDowell went to his home club at Lake Nona, about 30 minutes from Bay Hill. He pulled out eight or so drivers and started beating balls until he found one he liked.
He pulled varying brands, shafts, lengths and lofts to find a keeper, which produced a clean sweep in fairways hit at 14 for 14, one less than the first two rounds combined.
“It's not completely equipment, it's a lot of technique,” McDowell said after his round Saturday. “I've been struggling with my 3‑wood, as well. It's a technical issue. I'm just kind of losing the loft a little bit on my backswing and I need to put that loft back on again. It was also a little bit of a swing change today, as well.”
McDowell talked with his coach Pete Cowan back in the U.K. on the phone as well and used e-mail to shoot him video of his swing. It all helped in the end.
“It's great technology nowadays where your coach can kind of be in tune with actually what you're doing wrong,’ McDowell said. “Even though he's on the other side of the pond.”
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3. CLOSE, BUT NO CIGAR: Chesson Hadley has come the closest to catching Adam Scott since the Masters champion teed it up Thursday.
When Hadley got to 11 under with a 4-under start, Scott was close enough to touch. Just as quickly, Scott proved the elusive player he has been to the field all week.
“I wasn't really paying attention,” Hadley said after his 3-under 69. “But, no, it definitely didn't matter. I was just trying to – I don't know, everything felt good, so I was trying to make some more birdies. “
Hadley, a rookie, has recorded three rounds in the 60s with rounds of 69-68-69 and is the only player in the field to accomplish that.
To win Sunday, Hadley will have to keep that streak going and take it down a stroke or two.
“There's going to be some nasty flags tomorrow, and if I can shoot 4- or 5-under you never know,” Hadley said. “Just go, get a good night's sleep and see what happens tomorrow.”
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4. WINNING ISN'T EVERYTHING: Arnold Palmer won 62 times in his PGA Tour career and earned 245 top-10 finishes.
Palmer’s grandson Sam Saunders has played in 21 events on the PGA Tour, recording only two top 25’s.
At 5 under and 10 shots back, Saunders would need an unbelievable round and a lot of unlikely help to find his first win.
But for Saunders, a good week could mean a lot.
“I got a little nervous out there,” Saunders said after a 1-under 71. “But that's normal; good nervous. But just hung in there. I was really proud of my composure today. When I hit a bad shot I didn't let it bother me. I made a few bogeys, but also made some birdies to offset it and just hung tough.”
Saunders admitted he has played Bay Hill close to a thousand times, but tomorrow will not be like anything he has experienced before at Bay Hill.
With his parents, sisters, aunts, uncles and grandfather watching, Sunday can make a big difference.
“I'm going to go out there tomorrow and try to shoot as low as I can,” Saunders said. “Obviously the guys are pulling out there a little bit ahead of me, but you never know what's out there. If I get hot tomorrow and post something good, I'll see what happens.”
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Three bogey-free rounds took place Saturday by Matt Every (66), Graeme McDowell (67) and Vijay Singh (68). . . . At 71.442, Saturday’s scoring average is the lowest of the week … Retief Goosen (T-29) is playing on a Major Medical Extension this season. He started the year with 13 events to earn $279,781. In 10 starts this season he has earned $191,569. Counting this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Goosen has three events to earn $88,212. Goosen could clear his medical extension with a top-18 finish tomorrow. . . . McDowell made the longest putt of the tournament, 74 feet, 9 inches, Saturday.