Sweet Swede Stenson Makes Move, Sits Atop Crowded Leaderboard


Nothing much happened during Saturday's third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard. Nothing except the tournament's first albatross, another obscene display of low scoring, and a tussle atop the leaderboard.

When the gust of red numbers settled, Sweden's Henrik Stenson sat atop the leaderboard, thanks to a closing burst in which he played the last four holes in 4 under par for a 6-under 66. His 16-under 200 total provided him a two-shot cushion over Morgan Hoffmann, the first and second-round leader, who pulled out of an early tailspin to post 71-202.

Four men were another shot back at 203, including defending champion Matt Every, who shot 69. Also at 13 under were Jason Kokrak, Matt Jones and Ben Marin. Kokrak tied Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand for low round of the day with a 7-under 65, while Jones, who birdied his last four holes, and Martin carded 67 and 68, respectively.

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy got within one of the lead until three straight bogeys scuttled his bid. He'll begin today's final round seven back after a 71. The field once again took advantage of a Championship Course left undisturbed by the elements. The 70 men who made the cut averaged 70.457 strokes, the lowest since the opening round of 2007.

Rookie Daniel Berger boosted the scoring average all by himself with an eagle and an albatross, the latter coming on the par-5 sixth hole when his second shot from 237 yards found the cup.

"The golf course... it's out there. You can play some aggressive golf," said Kokrak, who finished fourth last year.

Stenson, the 2013 FedExCup champion and No. 3 in the world, showed how it's done. He punctuated his round by making a 20-footer for eagle at the 16th and then sticking his approach at the difficult 18th to 2 feet for the kick-in birdie that gave him a bit of breathing room over Hoffmann.

"I got a couple of shots ahead but it's pretty bunched up leaderboard, I believe, lot of guys on 12, 13-under," said Stenson, who has a home in Orlando. "If they get hot tomorrow and play well they can definitely catch me pretty quickly. So, I got to go out there and play solid round and that's all I can try and do and see where that puts us."

Stenson seeks his first win since the 2013 TOUR Championship. He'll not only try to break that drought, but also a recent streak in which the 54-hole leader has failed to win.

The laconic Swede just shrugged. "They haven't played well enough. I'm not just a pretty face."

Perhaps not. But he'll likely need a pretty score to triumph today.

--Dave Shedloski