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Can Tiger close this time?
By Dennis de Jesus
After posting a 1-under 71, Tiger Woods remains atop the leader board at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, a round which saw a mix of birdies, pars, bogeys and even a double bogey on the par-4 15th hole. Woods is 11-under for the tournament, giving him a one shot lead heading into the final round. With a victory, Woods will tie Jack Nicklaus for second all time with 73 PGA tour wins, placing him nine back from the all time leader Sam Snead, who has 82.
Woods seemingly had a stranglehold on the tournament as he held a four shot lead during a stretch on the front nine, where many players faltered and he steadied himself to card a 1-under 35. Unfortunately, Woods failed to be consistent on the back nine, where he bogeyed No. 14 and a recorded a double-bogey on No. 15. Thankfully, three birdies on the back countered what could have been a sizable fall on the leaderboard. With the exception of those two holes, Woods did play a steady and conservative round, only attacking the pin when the high percentage shot was available.
Though there has been much talk about of Woods’ reconstructed swing and success in keeping his tee shots in play this year, it is his putting that has been the real story, where he has made 47 of 49 putts within 10 feet, which ranks him No. 1 in that category for the week.
Woods’ round was certainly highlighted by the misstep on the 15th hole, where he claims a distraction at the teebox caused an errant tee shot to go out of bounds. ”A little kid fainted and a lady yelled on my downswing and I flinched,” said Woods about the incident.
Graeme McDowell is alone in second place posting a 1-under 71, putting him at 10-under for the tournament. This is the first time since the 2010 Chevron World Challenge where McDowell and Woods will be in the final paring with a chance to win the tournament. In their last meeting, McDowell managed to defeat Woods in a playoff after a thrilling and exciting Sunday at the Sherwood Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif. With a victory McDowell will win for only the second time on the PGA Tour, his first being the 2010 U.S Open at Pebble Beach. As for Bay Hill, McDowell’s best finish is a tie for second in 2005. e has missed the cut here in the last two years, so redemption is definitely on his mind as he tees off Sunday only one behind Woods.
With a 5-under 67, Ernie Els tied for the best round of the day and has put himself into contention, three back of Woods. Els is depending on a third place finish or better to assure himself a spot at the Masters tournament in two weeks. The “Big Easy” hasn’t won on Tour in two years, the last being the 2010 edition of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Can Tiger Woods hold on to win his first PGA tournament since 2009? Can Graeme McDowell beat Tiger again in a head to head final pairing? Can Ernie Els finish third or better and earn a spot at Augusta? Tune in tomorrow as coverage of the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which starts at 2:30 p.m. EST on NBC.
You can follow Dennis on Twitter @jugojr.