Rory McIlroy: Six-under par round puts Bay Hill title defence back on track

Rory McIlory  plays his shot from the ninth tee during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by Mastercard at the Bay Hill Club
Rory McIlory plays his shot from the ninth tee during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by Mastercard at the Bay Hill Club

Rory McIlroy fired a quality six-under 66 on the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando to put his title defence back on track.

Starting the day seven shots off overnight leaders Tommy Fleetwood and Keegan Bradley, McIlroy got off to a brilliant start on a warm day at Bay Hill, making four birdies in the first six holes.

His only bogey of the day came on the eighth hole after he found a bunker as he turned in three-under 33.

McIlroy started the back nine with five straight pars but put in a storming finish with three birdies over the final four holes, his 66 taking him into a two-shot clubhouse lead over Chris Kirk (66) and Luke List (68).

Bradley’s challenge fell apart early on with four bogeys in his first five holes, while a second bogey of the round from Fleetwood on the eighth hole saw him drop back to seven under alongside fellow Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick, who was three under through 11 holes.

McIlroy has finished in the top five in all four starts on the PGA Tour this year, including second spot at the WGC-Mexico Championship last time out.

And the current world number six believes he can go one better and defend his title on Sunday.

“I’m feeling good, this was a great round to play to get myself back into contention,” McIlroy told Sky Sports.

“ I’m feeling good about my game, I have been feeling good all year. It’s just a matter of doing the right things and doing them day after day.

“And if I do all those, maybe tomorrow’s the day, maybe tomorrow’s the day that I can put it all together and shoot another good round of golf and hopefully that will be good enough.”

Northern Ireland compatriot Graeme McDowell fired four birdies and a single bogey in a fine three-under 69 that moved him to four under.