Fitzpatrick leads, McIlroy surges at Bay Hill

Matt Fitzpatrick edged into a one-stroke lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational as Rory McIlroy climbed into second on Saturday.

Fitzpatrick did not have the lowest round of the day, but his five-under 67 was enough to propel him to the lead at nine under, ahead of defending champion McIlroy.

The Englishman was mistake-free at Bay Hill and fired off five birdies, including two on the last four holes. He has never won a PGA Tour event, but has a strong record on the European Tour with five victories.

“It’s a lot different over here, I feel,” Fitzpatrick said after his round, via Golf Digest. “[It’s a] different atmosphere, different styles of golf course, different fields. It’s exciting, I’ve put myself in a good position, so I’m looking forward to it.”

McIlroy was the clubhouse leader after carding a Saturday-low of six-under 66. He climbed a whopping 29 spots to enter the final round in contention. He had four birdies in the first six holes and three more after the turn. A bogey on the par-four eighth stained his scorecard and put him one stroke behind Fitzpatrick in solo second place.

“It’s great, he’s defending champion, he’s got a ton of fans over here,” Fitzpatrick said of being paired with McIlroy on Sunday. “I’ve become good friends with him, [I] moved down to Jupiter for the winter months and I’ve spent a good bit of time with him there. It will be a fun day.”

Kevin Kisner stayed put in third place at seven under and was joined by Australian Aaron Baddeley and Englishman Matt Wallace, who both shot rounds of three-under 69.

Chris Kirk, Luke List, Charles Howell III and Rafa Cabrera-Bello all climbed up the leaderboard and into sixth place at six under. Keegan Bradley, who was tied for the lead entering Saturday, joined them after his front nine was riddled with five bogeys. 

Tommy Fleetwood, who shared the 36-hole lead with Bradley, fell into a tie for 11th place at five under after carding three bogeys and a double bogey. He is joined by the likes of Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer.