England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick swiped the lead from Rory McIlroy late Saturday afternoon at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.
Fitzpatrick was in at 9-under overall after 54 holes following a bogey-free round of 67 that was punctuated by a steely par save on 18.
The putt left him 5-under on the day and one shot ahead of the taught and muscular Northern Irishman McIlroy, who is looking to repeat as Bay Hill champion.
“We just played really smart,” Fitzpatrick said of his unheralded round on The King’s splendid-but-hard-and-fast treacherous home track. “I’ve been driving it really solid all week. Did the same again today. Just hit a lot of greens – or tried to anyway – you just have to play smart and stick to your targets out there. It is very fiery. The greens are really firm and it’s getting tougher.”
McIlroy began Saturday tied for 31st place. He picked up six shots on the day with a fiery 66 and entered the clubhouse tied with 36-hole co-leader Tommy Fleetwood at 8-under.
Less than 30 minutes later, McIlroy would have the lead all to himself after the Englishman Fleetwood splashed down on his approach at the par-4 No. 8. Fleetwood would rally for a bogey save with a laser-sharp 12-footer. He continued to stumble throughout the afternoon and was 4-over on the day, tied for 10th place.
McIlroy is aiming for his 15th PGA Tour victory. Fitzpatrick seeks his first.
McIlroy and Fitzpatrick are close friends and will be joined in the final pairing Sunday. “It will be great. He is defending champion and he’s got a ton of fans over here. I’ve become good friends with him, moved down to Jupiter in the winter months and spent a good time with him there. It will be a fun day,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fleetwood and Keegan Bradley shared the lead after Round 2 Friday.
Scroll through our Round 3 recap below.
Golf Channel: 12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. ET
NBC: 2:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. ET
PGA Tour Live: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. ET
PGA Tour Radio: 1 p.m. – 6 p.m. ET