ORLANDO, Fla. – As attendance increases on the PGA Tour, the traveling show follows suit.
Take Saturday’s third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, for example, where thousands of fans enjoyed a wide variety of theater around the Bay Hill Club and Lodge.
Bryson DeChambeau briefly transformed into Rocky Balboa after finally delivering the knockout he had been promising on the sixth hole.
Jordan Spieth hit a hole-in-one, hit a bunker shot, drained over 141 feet of putts and did it all while singling for 14 holes.
And Lee Westwood, 47, ignored the tour questions before taking it to the young children with eight birdies and an eagle. His 7-under-65 gave the veteran a one-shot lead over DeChambeau and Corey Conners. Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and defending champion Tyrell Hatton are within five shots of Westwood, who has won 12 times worldwide since his last Tour victory at the 2010 St. Jude Classic in Memphis, but some He only owns a top 10. in 13 trips to Bay Hill, a place he loves.
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“I know I’m still capable of playing well when it matters,” Westwood said. “I’m not surprised, no, because I haven’t lost any of my length and I haven’t lost any of my enthusiasm for going to work, and working out in the gym. My nerves are still intact, I still get into containment and I enjoy it. “
The Englishman’s ball stroke remains one of the modern wonders of professional golf, but on Saturday it was his putt that left many wearing masks speechless. He totaled nearly 130 feet of putts in Round 3, and that didn’t include a 32-foot eagle mark from the edge at No. 16.
“Last week I did 130 feet in four rounds,” Westwood joked.
For once, it was Westwood’s turn to make jokes. Earlier this week, Westwood said some of his younger teammates asked him about competing on the PGA Tour Champions in two years.
“Everybody keeps asking me when I’m going to go on the senior tour,” Westwood said with a laugh, “so I think they’re trying to get rid of me.”
Everyone will start Sunday chasing Westwood, including DeChambeau, who has undoubtedly been the main attraction this week at Arnie’s Place.
DeChambeau had spent days suppressing anticipation before revealing his grand experiment Saturday with a 370-yard drive that exploded in the clubface and landed just 70 yards to the right of the green on the 555-yard hole. It wasn’t exactly what he had promised, but it didn’t matter, neither to the fans nor to DeChambeau, who, with the ball still in mid-air, raised both hands in the air as if he had just climbed the 72 stone steps. leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
“I felt like I had won a tournament there,” said DeChambeau, who easily birdied the hole. It was one of six birdies for DeChambeau, whose third round 68 also included a little sideshow on the ninth hole, where he drove him to the right and into Lot 7 before making an incredible 14-foot approach and par.
However, if anyone thought that was crazy, they might have needed Dramamine to witness Spieth’s round. The resurgent superstar, who has had two 54-hole leads in the past month, started his day with a 19-foot birdie on the opening hole. He then hit the second tee and hit a 5-iron from 220 yards for his third ace on the Tour. Right now, Spieth was feeling it.
“It was almost like a kind of first-down feeling at the Ryder Cup, which you’re so excited about,” he said.
OK, maybe feeling it as well a lot of. Spieth tossed his tee shot on the third par 4 hole into the water, but avoided disaster by draining a 32-foot for par. His gambling competitor, Justin Rose, put three in the drink and pulled a hole later with a back injury.
Rose’s sudden departure left Spieth alone to do his thing. He nearly blocked an out of bounds drive in the fourth par 5 and made par. He had to score a 15-foot par on the next hole. He splashed perfectly for a sandy birdie on par 3 of the seventh. When he made the turn, he did so by making a 36-foot birdie at No. 10. He had to save the pair at the attractive par 5 16th hole after coming within inches of hitting his second shot in the pond.
Spieth’s Birdie at par 5 12th The hole was the only easy circle he put on the card.
“It was just another round that, unfortunately, didn’t bore me,” said Spieth, who poked fun at the numbers 14 and 17 as he came in to shoot 68 and hit 9 under, two shots behind. “I’m trying to have boring rounds.”
Those who watch, selfishly, hope Spieth doesn’t get his way on Sunday.
They are enjoying the show.