Rory McIlroy stays in touch with leader Tyrrell Hatton at Bay Hill

Rory McIlroy stays in touch with leader Tyrrell Hatton at Bay Hill

World number one Rory McIlroy kept himself in contention heading into the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where England’s Tyrrell Hatton holds a two-shot lead after another testing day at Bay Hill.

Northern Irishman McIlroy, five under overnight as part of the chasing pack, dropped a shot on the final hole to sign for another one-over 73 which put him equal second.

Hatton also carded a one-over in testing conditions to sit at six under. The 28-year-old from High Wycombe picked up two crucial birdies in the closing three holes, as most players struggled during the tough back nine with strong winds and firm greens.

McIlroy, the 2018 tournament winner, admitted the third round had been “pretty tough”.

“Obviously there is not a lot of red on that scorecard,” he told Sky Sports. “There were a couple of chances which I let go by, but I also made some really good saves.

“But I am enjoying the grinds, the fact that pars are good, you are really having to think out there, play the angles, the fairways are getting firm, there are crosswinds.

“It is a bit different to the golf we play week-in week-out, so I am trying to enjoy it as much as I can.”

McIlroy added: “If (Sunday) is going to be a day like today, then anything in the red is going to be really good.”

Australian Marc Leishman managed to get around in even par, having dropped a shot at the 15th, and is tied at four under alongside McIlroy.

South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Sungjae Im of South Korea, Australian Danny Lee, who double-bogeyed the 18th, and America’s Harris English are all tied fourth at three under.

Sung Kang, though, plummeted down the leaderboard after two triple-bogeys on the back nine – including two into the water at the 11th and a seven on the last hole – left him six over for the day having gone into the turn at even.

American Max Homa was the only player to score below par in Orlando on Saturday as he recorded a two-under 70 to lie at one over for the tournament, tied in 16th place.

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