Adam Scott didn’t have to look as far down the leaderboard to find players who suddenly are a real threat to win at Bay Hill.
He described them as players who are “hungry to win,” and Scott served them up an appetizer Saturday in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Fla.
Staked to a 7-shot lead at the start of the third round, the Masters champion hit enough loose shots and missed just enough par putts to lose more than half his lead and turn his quest to be No. 1 in the world into a bigger battle than he would have preferred.
Scott made a 7-foot par putt on the final hole for a 1-under 71, giving him a 3-shot lead over Keegan Bradley going into today.
“I think I’ve got to go out and try to win the golf tournament,” Scott said. “I’m not trying to win the No. 1 ranking. I’ve got a bunch of guys breathing down my neck who all have had nice rounds today and are feeling pretty good about the way they’re playing going into tomorrow. So I’m going to have to play a pretty sharp round of golf and not open the door at all.”
Scott was at 15-under 201.
Bradley birdied his last three holes, taking on the flag at the 18th with a 9-iron from 167 yards that narrowly cleared the rocks framing the lake and settled 4 feet from the flag. That was the final touch on an eight-birdie round of 66 that put him in the final group.
“I just kind of like that underdog role,” Bradley said. “I like knowing that I’ve got to go out there and play well. It really gets me excited. And playing in the final group with one of the best players in the world at Arnold Palmer’s tournament is what we all dream to do. Tomorrow is going to be a really fun day.”
Scott has a chance to replace Tiger Woods at No. 1 in the world with a victory, though he wouldn’t take over at the top until the week before the Masters.
But there’s too much golf, and now too many players, for Scott to think that far ahead.
Matt Every (66) and Jason Kokrak (67) were 4 shots behind, both with a chance to win on the PGA Tour for the first time. Chesson Hadley and Francesco Molinari of Italy each had a 69 and were another shot behind.
Hadley, who won the Puerto Rico Open two weeks ago, can qualify for the Masters with a high finish. He likely would need to be in sixth place or better to be solidly inside the top 50 in the world.
Scott was never satisfied with the 7-shot lead, and he still felt comfortable with a 3-shot advantage going into today.
“When you’ve got the lead, you have to work for it,” he said. “I’m still in good shape.”
Lydia Ko topped the crowded leaderboard in the JTBC Founders Cup in Phoenix, pulling ahead with two late birdies.
The 16-year-old New Zealander shot a 5-under 67 to reach 16-under 200 at Desert Ridge. She tapped in for birdie on the par-5 15th after missing an 8-foot eagle putt and took the outright lead with a 10-footer on the par-3 17th.
Ko won the Canadian Women’s Open as an amateur the last two years and took the Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters in December in Thailand in her second start as a professional.
She has five victories in pro events, also winning in Australia and New Zealand.
Jessica Korda and Mirim Lee were a stroke back, and a dozen players were within 4 shots. Korda had a 66, and Lee shot 70.
Billy Andrade shot a 7-under 65 to share the lead with Fred Funk after the second round of the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic at Fallen Oak in Saucier, Miss.
Andrade had the low round of the day, capping it with a 20-foot birdie putt on 18. Funk shot a 67.
Andrade, 50, is playing in just his fourth Champions Tour event. His best finish was eighth place at the ACE Group Classic in February.
Fred Couples started the day with a 2-stroke lead, but fell into a tie for second place after shooting a 71.
Jay Haas and Jeff Maggert both had 69 to join Couples 1 stroke behind the leaders.
Andrade and Funk are at 8-under 136 for the tournament.