ORLANDO, FLORIDA – MARCH 09: Hideki Matsuyama of Japan hits an approach shot on the 10th hole during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard at Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Golf Course on March 09, 2024 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Hideki Matsuyama rallied late on Saturday with two birdies and a big par save to stay in the title fight at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard as World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and Shane Lowry concluded a tough third round by sharing the lead on 9-under.

Matsuyama, who earned a record ninth PGA TOUR victory in his last start at the Genesis Invitational three weeks ago, fell out of a six-way overnight lead following a battling 72 which left him two shots back with one round remaining in the US$20 million Signature Event.

Scheffler one-putted his final seven holes, which included four birdies, as he signed for a 70 to co-lead with Lowry, the 2019 Open champion, who also carded a 70 as he seeks a third PGA TOUR title. Reigning U.S. Open champin Wyndham Clark carded a 71 for solo third, one off the pace.

“The course was playing difficult with the wind and my own shots. My putting and approaches were not that great so I was pretty frustrated,” said Matsuyama, who is now the winningest Asian golfer on the PGA TOUR.

The 32-year-old Japanese star found water with an errant drive on the third before dropping another shot at the next, a par-5, after missing the green. He pencilled his first birdie on the 13th hole before adding a third bogey on 15. Then came his strong finish, a birdie from three feet on the 16th hole, an 11-foot birdie conversion at the next followed by a vital save after laying up from thick rough on the closing hole.

“I was able to get a couple back over the last few holes and was able finish the day without going over par. I think that should carry into tomorrow and being just two back right now, I’m feeling pretty good about where I stand,” said Matsuyama.

When he won the Genesis Invitational last month, Matsuyama, who holds one top-10 in nine previous starts at Bay Hill, came from six shots back on the last day with a closing 62 to beat the stars gathered at Riviera. He will need to mount another come-from-behind effort to pick up another US$4 million winner’s cheque.

“I’m still a bit sore here and there, but compared to yesterday, I’m feeling much better,” said Matsuyama who has been nursing a lower back injury this week. “The bigger issue is more with myself than the clubs. The clubs feel pretty good, but I’m curious to see how they feel once I’m actually hitting the ball better. I’ve got a really good chance heading into tomorrow and will do all I can to perform well. A lot will depend on the wind, but I don’t see anyone really putting up a big score so I just want to play hard and see what happens.”

Scheffler, whose six PGA TOUR victories include the 2023 PLAYERS Championship and 2022 Masters, was rewarded for his perseverance as his putter finally hit a hot streak. “I needed a lot of patience,” he said. “It’s a tough place to play. It’s tough to make putts, it’s tough to get the ball close to the hole. I’m proud of how I finished.”


Weather: Hot and humid. High of 89. Wind SW 15-20 mph, with gusts to 30 mph.


Third-Round Leaderboard

Pos. Player R1 R2 R3 Total 54-hole record*
T1 Scottie Scheffler 70 67 70 207 (-9) 3-for-8
T1 Shane Lowry 66 71 70 207 (-9) 1-for-3
3 Wyndham Clark 71 66 71 208 (-8)  
T4 Will Zalatoris 69 69 71 209 (-7)  
T4 Russell Henley 68 69 72 209 (-7)  
T4 Hideki Matsuyama 67 70 72 209 (-7)  

* Record with the 54-hole lead/co-lead in PGA TOUR stroke-play events


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