Rory McIlroy’s 6-under 66 moved him to eight under for the week, a tally good enough to sit just one shot back through 54 holes and well within striking distance of another title.
In somewhat of a tribute to the late Arnold Palmer, he produced a couple of blitzes in his third round Saturday to walk off Bay Hill ready to win again.
Last year, he birdied eight of his last 13 holes on Sunday to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The former FedExCup champion started the day seven shots back of Tommy Fleetwood and Keegan Bradley but shot out of the blocks like a rocket with four birdies in his opening six holes.
While a bogey at the par-4 8th slowed his run McIlroy reinvigorated his title defense with three closing birdies in the final four holes.
“Just what I needed,” McIlroy said of his round.
“I was more in control of my golf ball today, I hit more fairways, and because of that I gave myself more birdie chances and I converted a few of them. So I did everything I needed to do today to get myself back in the golf tournament and excited to have another chance tomorrow.”
The 14-time PGA TOUR winner led the field in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and Tee-to-Green on Saturday and also needed just 27 putts.
McIlroy came into the week with four top-5 finishes in his last four starts but hasn’t won since a year ago.
He’s ready to rectify that.
“Any time you’ve had success on a course before that gives you confidence,” he said.
“Honestly, just confidence in my game in general. I’ve been trending in the right direction … I feel pretty comfortable with everything out there and just the more times I put myself in this position the more I’m going to become comfortable there and sooner or later it’s going to happen.”
Arnold Palmer Invitational, par 70:
207 – Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG) 70-70-67
208 – Rory McIlroy (NIR) 72-70-66
209 – Aaron Baddeley (AUS) 70-70-69, Matt Wallace (ENG) 71-69-69, Kevin Kisner 70-69-70
210 – Chris Kirk 71-73-66, Luke List 70-72-68, Charles Howell 74-67-69, Rafael Cabrera Bello (ESP) 65-75-70, Keegan Bradley 67-68-75
211 – Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 70-75-66, Jason Kokrak 70-73-68, Martin Kaymer (GER) 72-69-70, Bubba Watson 68-72-71, Im Sung-Jae (KOR) 71-69-71, Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 69-66-76
212 – Graeme McDowell (NIR) 68-75-69, Henrik Stenson (SWE) 77-66-69, Lucas Glover 70-71-71, Kang Sung-hoon (KOR) 69-72, Francesco Molinari (ITA) 69-70-73, Billy Horschel 68-71-73
213 – Adam Hadwin (CAN) 70-75-68, An Byeong-hun (KOR) 72-72-69, Carlos Ortiz (MEX) 72-71-70, Hideki Matsuyama (JPN) 72-70-71, Kevin Streelman 70-72-71, Chesson Hadley 71-71-71, Brendan Steele 70-71-72, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) 71-70-72, Roger Sloan (CAN) 70-69-74