DEREK LAWRENSON AT BAY HILL: It has been the year of the underdog at the PGA Tour this season with Talor Gooch and Billy Horschel leading the way, and Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland and Brit Tyrrell Hatton struggling to deliver
- The PGA Tour has surprised many this season at the Arnold Palmer Invitational
- Underdogs Talor Gooch and fellow American Billy Horschel are leading
- Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland and Brit Tyrrell Hatton have so far failed to deliver
- McIlroy is in contention despite shooting four over par on Saturday in Florida
- Whilst Hovland gave up the lead after making four bogeys on back nine
Rory McIlroy struggled. Viktor Hovland struggled. Tyrrell Hatton imploded.
It’s been the year of the underdog so far on the PGA Tour this season and it certainly continued in a wild third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at brutal Bay Hill.
It says everything about the difficulty of the test that McIlroy shot a disappointing 76 and yet will start the final round only four shots behind, having begun the day two strokes in arrears.
Rory Mcilroy has failed to deliver so far in the PGA Tour at the Arnold Palmer Invitational
Viktor Hovland has also struggled to produce the goods when it matters most in Florida
For the second day running he finished poorly over the daunting closing stretch, driving out of bounds at the 15th and then bogeying the tortuous 17th and 18th holes for good measure.
The consolation on a course where no-one seems to be able to hold on to the lead is that he might fancy a shot at the title from just off the pace, rather than at the top of the board.
It is how he won this title in 2018, after all, when he birdied five of the last six holes.
Even Hovland struggled after hitting the front. With nine holes to play he had reached ten under and was four shots clear.
It appeared he was cruising to his fourth victory worldwide in his last eight starts but then it all went wrong, even for him, as he played the back nine in 40 strokes for a 75.
It left him one stroke behind the unheralded American Talor Gooch and his underrated fellow countryman, Billy Horschel.
A victory for either would continue a curious run that has seen not a single player ranked inside the world top ten at the time of their win claim any of the first eight events held so far this season on the PGA Tour.
Horschel was the outrageous beneficiary of what ought to go down as licensed cheating on the 18th hole.
Underdog American Talor Gooch has been a standout player so far and leads the way
Fellow countryman Billy Horschel is another outsider who is at the top of the standings
His ball had finished in a wicked lie just off the putting surface from where he had virtually no shot.
Fortunately for Horschel, he was allowed a free drop because of a sprinkler head nearby. Instead of his impossible shot, he was allowed to drop the ball on the apron of the green and, adding insult to injury, he holed the subsequent birdie putt.
It was a day for the streetfighters, therefore, so no surprise to see Graeme McDowell shoot 69 to move up 23 places to stand alongside McIlroy, while Matt Fitzpatrick shot 70 to be inside the top ten. Hatton, alas, carded a 78 to fall six behind.