McIlroy survives carnage to contend again

Rory McIlroy is out to earn his first win as the recently-minted world No.1, starting the final day at the Arnold Palmer Invitational two shots off the pace.

RORY MCILROY of Northern Ireland reacts to a shot from a bunker on the fifth hole during the third round of the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.
RORY MCILROY of Northern Ireland reacts to a shot from a bunker on the fifth hole during the third round of the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. Picture: David Cannon/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy is looking to put an exclamation mark on his recent ascension to world No.1 with a second victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida.

Courtesy of a scintillating run of form since winning the Tour Championship in August, McIlroy returned to the top of the rankings last month for the first time since the end of 2015.

Now, the four-times major winner has a chance to increase his cushion over his challengers having remained well in contention after three rounds at Florida's Bay Hill course.

England's Tyrrell Hatton carded a one-over 73 and at six-under-par he will take a two-shot lead into the final round over McIlroy (73) and Australia's Marc Leishman (72).

McIlroy has squandered several chances to win during the past six months.

In nine starts worldwide since the Tour Championship, the Northern Irishman has finished inside the top 10 a remarkable eight times but has earned only one victory.

That was at the World Golf Championship in China last November.

However, McIlroy believes he can get the job done on Sunday and earn a 19th career US PGA Tour victory.

"I'm confident in my game. I think my ball striking's been good. I was pretty good off the tee today," McIlroy said on Saturday.

"I'm thinking well around the course. I feel like my distance control's been pretty good."

McIlroy, a US Open winner, compared the brutal conditions on Saturday to the testing American major.

The third round was the toughest day of scoring in 40 years at Bay Hill, with only one player breaking par.

Not a single player shot in the 60s for the first time since the 1980 edition as strong winds, thick rough and fast greens wreaked havoc on many of the world's best golfers.

"It's a mental grind. It's about just trying to stay as patient as possible out there," McIlroy said.

"But it's a nice change from the norm.

"I've talked about trying to really embrace challenge these days when I would have shied away from it in the past.

"So really trying to embrace the tough conditions."


AAP