Jason Day was delighted to defy swirling winds and heavy rain to hold on to his two-shot lead heading into the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Seeking to become the fourth wire-to-wire winner in the tournament’s history, Day carded a third round of 70 at Bay Hill to reach 15 under par, with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson on 13 under alongside Americans Troy Merritt and Kevin Chappell.
Stenson had surged into the lead thanks to birdies on the fourth and fifth and an eagle on the par-five sixth, but Day recovered from an early bogey to birdie the sixth and chip in for another from the back of the eighth green.
As the rain intensified, Stenson could only manage a back nine of 37, while Day recovered from finding the water on the 11th to birdie the 16th and remain firmly on course for an eighth PGA Tour title and a seventh in the last two years.
“I’m very pleased,” the US PGA champion told Sky Sports. “It was a tough old day. We had a lot of rain out there and at times it was pretty heavy.
“The wind was swirling around, it was everywhere today and the temperature changed which cost me some strokes here and there but for the most part I’m really pleased.
“On a course like this, especially today, it was very hard to make birdies. It was very easy to shoot yourself back to the field and I felt like I did a good job of staying out in front, being as patient as possible and trying to take the birdies when I could.
“I’m not sure what the weather is going to bring us tomorrow. I think it’s very similar but if it is I have another day of just trying to grind it out being as patient as possible.”
Stenson has finished second, fifth and eighth in the last three years at Bay Hill and felt he had “one hand on the trophy” 12 months ago before failing to convert a two-shot lead after 54 holes.
The 39-year-old looked set to fall three shots off the pace when his approach to the 18th plugged in a greenside bunker, but he produced a superb recovery and holed from eight feet to save par and match Day’s 70.
Merritt and Chappell both shot 67 to equal the lowest score of the day, with England’s Justin Rose two shots further back on 11 under after a 71.
World number three Rory McIlroy carded three double bogeys in a disappointing 75 to drop back to one over par for the tournament, while Adam Scott’s bid for a third straight victory effectively ended with a triple-bogey seven on the 18th to finish the day nine shots behind fellow Australian Day.