Thursday, March 30, 2017

Hoffman putt ties Kisner for API lead

Charley Hoffman made a 71-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to tie Kevin Kisner for the lead after three rounds of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s how things stand going into the final round at Bay Hill:

Leaderboard: Hoffman (-11), Kisner (-11), Tyrell Hatton (-8), Marc Leishman (-8), Matthew Fitzpatrick (-8), Adam Hadwin (-7), Lucas Glover (-7)

What it means: After a T-4 in his first start of the 2016-17 season, the Genesis Open, Hoffman had been going the wrong way, with subsequent finishes of T-17, T-24 and T-54. His drive at the 18th hole went left, and he had to play away from the pin on his approach. But his putt was perfect, giving him a 71. Kisner, who shot 68, continues knocking on the door early in this season. He already has a couple of top-10 finishes (T-4, Sony Open; T-10, AT&T Pebble Beach) as well as an 11th at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

Round(s) of the day: Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler both shot 7-under 65. McIlroy was bogey-free, the last two of his seven birdies coming on the 17th and 18th holes. Fowler double-bogeyed the par-4 third hole, but followed that with three consecutive birdies to finish the front nine, then added circles at Nos. 10, 12, 13 and 15 before eagling the par-5 16th. Fowler also made a remarkable par save on the par-4 11th, which we’ll get to later.

Biggest disappointment: Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo was just one shot off the lead after 36 holes, but after a 6-over 78 on Saturday, he needs a miracle. His misadventures included a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 sixth hole, where he found the water twice.

Shot of the day: Hoffman’s final putt was the most dramatic. For a non-putt, we’ll go with Fowler on the par-4 11th hole. He found the water in front of the green with his approach, but the ball was playable. His splash-out hit the pin and he was able to save par.

Main storylines heading into Sunday: There are several: Kisner, 33, is trying to shake the label of one-hit wonder (his only win was the 2015 RSM Classic), while Hoffman, 40, is looking for his fifth Tour win. Canadian Hadwin, 29, may be the hottest player on Tour, having won the Valspar Championship for his first Tour victory and shooting 59 in the CareerBuilder Challenge. Among the big names, it’s a question of whether McIlroy (-6) and Fowler (-5) are too far back.

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