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Strong round puts McIlroy in contention at Arnold Palmer Invitational

Rory McIlroy watches his tee shot on the fourth hole during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Orlando. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Rory McIlroy watches his tee shot on the fourth hole during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Orlando. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

A strong round on Saturday has put Rory McIlroy firmly into contention for a second straight Arnold Palmer Invitational victory.

England's Matt Fitzpatrick will take a one-shot lead over McIlroy into the final round of the tournament in Florida.

Fitzpatrick, 24, is chasing his first PGA Tour win and, after back-to-back 70s in the opening two rounds, posted five birdies and dropped no shots in a 67 on Saturday to move to nine under par.

That is one clear of last year's winner McIlroy, whose 66 saw him shoot up the leaderboard at Bay Hill.

The Northern Irishman started the day seven shots behind Tommy Fleetwood and Keegan Bradley but birdied four of his first six holes and three of the last four.

It was reminiscent of McIlroy's form 12 months ago, when eight birdies from his last 13 holes earned him victory.

That remains his last win, although he has finished in the top five in each of his last four events.

He said of his round on pgatour.com: "Just what I needed. It's really tough out there, difficult conditions.

"I was more in control of my golf ball today, I hit more fairways, and because of that I gave myself more birdie chances and I converted a few of them. So I did everything I needed to do today to get myself back in the golf tournament and (I'm) excited to have another chance tomorrow."

Both Bradley and Fleetwood struggled. The American bogeyed four of the first five holes and eventually signed for a 75 to drop into a tie for sixth, while Fleetwood's day was even worse.

The Englishman did not manage a birdie until the 18th while bogeying the second, eighth and 15th and double-bogeying the 10th in a 76, leaving him four shots off the lead.

A strong English presence at the top of the leaderboard was completed by Matt Wallace, who is in a tie for third on seven under alongside Australia's Aaron Baddeley and American Kevin Kisner.

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