Hatton 2 Up in Arnold Palmer Invitational

Tyrrell Hatton of England weathered a difficult day as some of the other leaders imploded around him in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and he is 18 holes from his first victory on the PGA Tour.

The 28-year-old Hatton sank a 31-foot birdie putt on the last hole to cap a 1-over-par 73 and take a two-stroke lead over top-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Marc Leishman of Australia in cool, windy conditions at Bay Hill Resort and Lodge www.bayhill.com in Orlando, Fla.

Not a single player broke 70 as temperatures fell about 30 degrees from Thursday’s high of 91.

“I think even though I tapped that (last) putt, it was probably going about eight feet past,” said Hatton, who has won four times on the European Tour among his seven pro victories. “It was scary how quick that thing was. I don’t normally fist pump on a Saturday. I think it was more shock that the ball actually went in the hole and very relieved.

“There are doubles and triples just around the corner, so that two-shot lead can go extremely quickly. Just got to see what happens. Eighteen holes is a lot of golf, and I’m sure it will be interesting to watch.”

Hatton three-putted from 26 feet for a double-bogey 6 on the ninth hole, and then made three birdies, two bogeys and a clutch 12-foot par putt at No. 17 on the last six holes while recording a 54-hole score of 6-under, 210.

McIlroy, who won at Bay Hill in 2018, held a share of the lead before hitting his approach shot into the rocks and making a bogey on the last hole of another 73, while Marc Leishman, who captured the 2017 API, made two birdies and two bogies in a 72.

“I was standing up here yesterday and I said the weekend’s just going to be about hanging around, hang around the lead, make pars, pick off your birdies when you can, and that’s sort of what I did today,” said McIlroy, who has finished sixth or better in his last six starts worldwide.

“I bogeyed the second hole and then I made, whatever it was, 13 pars in a row, and then finally made a birdie on 16. But it was a day where you just had to grind. … And looking at the scores it’s just, you know, it felt like a U.S. Open out there.

“ … It was a pretty bad lie (on the 18th hole). I got a little on my left side and was trying to chop it out there. I hit a really good shot, it just came out a little bit right on me. I was trying to just hit it up the gap of the green and it just came out sort of three or four yards right.”

Said Leishman: “I actually added my score up and kind of did a double-take. It added up to 72 and it felt like I shot 65. So yeah, it was really tough. The greens were firm, fast. It was exactly how you wanted the golf course to play, really. Par was a great score, and hopefully I can play like that again tomorrow.”

Sungjae Im of South Korea, who won the Honda Classic last week, sank a 55-foot putt on the last hole to salvage a 74 and is three shots back in a tie for fourth with Christiaan Bezuidenhout of South Africa, who had a 73, Harris English, who finished at 74, and Danny Lee of New Zealand, who wound up at 75.

Sung Kang of South Africa was tied for the lead until making a bogey at No. 17 and then driving out of bounds on the last hole en route to his second triple-bogey 7 on the back nine and fell to five down in solo eighth after a 78.

Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis birdied three of the last five holes to shoot 72 and is one more behind in a tie for ninth with Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal (75), Patrick Rodgers of Stanford (73), Matt Jones of Australia (73), Scottie Scheffler (75) and Tom Hoge (76).

Ninth-ranked Patrick Reed carded a triple bogey, a double bogey and three bogeys on the back nine en route to an 80 and is tied for 36th, while third-ranked Brooks Koepka is tied for 64th after making only one birdie in an 81.

For complete results, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html

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