Victory just one Day away


Jason Day has managed to maintain his lead after each of the first three rounds of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard. The trick, though, is to hold it after the fourth round. And that's a challenge unto itself.

The No. 3 player in the world, Day remains in the driver's seat at Bay Hill Club & Lodge after grinding out a 2-under-par 70 on a rainy Saturday. He left the Championship Course with a 13-under 201 total and the same two-stroke lead with which he began the day. It's not easy having the target on your back everyday.

"Yeah, you have to leave the course knowing that you have the lead everyday. You also have to sleep on it," said Day, 28, who last won in September at the BMW Championship. "You have to come to the course knowing that you have the lead, and you have to go out there and even though you're going OK - I'm in a good position - it's different pressure.

"It's great pressure to have because it only makes you stronger as a player the more times you put yourself there. It's a different pressure but it's a good, uncomfortable feeling that I've always talked about that I always want in my career because I know that if I've got that, then I'm comfortable because it means I'm doing it right and usually I'm around the lead."

The last player to have at least a share of the lead after each of the first three rounds and go on to victory was Tiger Woods in 2002. Only three previous winners have led wire-to-wire outright - Mike Nicolette in 1983, Paul Azinger in 1988 and Fred Couples in 1992.

Two strokes behind the reigning PGA champion are the trio of Kevin Chappell, Troy Merritt and world No. 7 Henrik Stenson, who finished runner-up a year ago. Stenson, a native of Sweden who has a home in Orlando, shot 70, his 16th round under par in his last 17 tours of Bay Hill. He held the 54-hole lead last year, but lost to Matt Every.

"When you're in contention you've got to go out and play a solid round of golf," said Stenson, who saved par from out of a plugged lie in a greenside bunker at 18. "I played all right last year, but I didn't get it finished. Hopefully we're in a different position now. We need to come from behind and play really good round if we want to have a shot at it."

Merritt, making his debut at Bay Hill, birdied three of the last four holes to also shoot 67. He will attempt to become just the third player to win in his first start here, joining Bob Byman in the inaugural edition in 1979 and Robert Gamez in 1990, after his famous hole-out from the fairway on the 72nd hole to beat Greg Norman.

Tied for fifth at 11-under 205 were England's Justin Rose, the No. 8 player in the world, and Derek Fathauer. Rose shot 71 and Fathauer, another first-timer at Bay Hill, carded 69. Emiliano Grillo of Argentina and Jamie Lovemark were next at 207 after 68 and 71, respectively.

Day, who has needed just 75 putts through three rounds on the Championship Course, best in the field and tied for his career low, has talked repeatedly this week about staying patient but aggressive on the golf course. It's advice that he received from one of the game's greatest winners - Woods, who has claimed this tournament a record eight times, including four in a row.

"Patience and aggression, is what he says, and extend the lead by one, two shots everyday," said Day, an Australian native, who is vying for his eighth PGA TOUR title. "And, pretty much, [he said] if it's not going your way, suck it up and just get it done somehow, and that's just a typical Tiger Woods comment right there.

"We've got one more day, and it's got to be a very patient day out there especially depending on the weather," Day added. "I'm trying to get some good rest and recovery tonight and get into it and hopefully try and extend that lead."

--Dave Shedloski