Fitzpatrick takes Bay Hill lead with McIlroy a stroke behind

Fitzpatrick takes Bay Hill lead with McIlroy a stroke behind

Didn't do justice to his host duties in the Arnold Palmer with a T63 finish in his first return to action after a few weeks off.

This putt was from 45 feet, longer than anything Woods ever made. Francesco Molinari had signed for a sterling 64 almost an hour and a half earlier, leaving the next 10 pairings to finish up their week's work with virtually no chance of victory.

"The golf course is hard", said McIlroy.

"He's obviously holed a lot of putts to do that because you can't get close to these pins", Matt Fitzpatrick, the 54-hole leader, said after a 71 to finish second. A miss from five feet at the next hole rather set the tone for what was to come. "My Sundays haven't been what I would have liked, but I'm putting myself in that position".

McIlroy, ranked sixth in the world, wasn't showing any signs of annoyance coming into the tournament, seemingly taking his close calls in stride and recognizing that the bigger picture suggests that good golf at some point will be rewarded.

Molinari joins recent winners Rory McIlroy (2018), Marc Leishman (2017) and Jason Day (2016).


Fran Quinn birdied three of the final holes in breezy conditions Saturday for a 4-under 67 and a three-stroke lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Hoag Classic.

McIlroy, despite a birdie at the second, could not get any real momentum going and had a closing round of 72 that saw him finish four shots behind the victor. "The key is to hit fairways and you have to spin the ball to get it to stop on the greens". Molinari has recently changed his equipment and had overcome a serious bout of flu to record his fourth worldwide win in 10 months. Sung Kang also had a big putt on the 18th hole, this one from 12 feet for par that sewed up the third and final spot offered for the British Open at Royal Portrush this summer.

The 29-year-old bemoaned his struggles on the greens as he made two birdies during the final round and he was the only member of the top 14 on the leaderboard who failed to shoot under par.

Tommy Fleetwood, of England, reacts after missing a putt on the 16th green during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament at Bay Hill, Friday, March 8, 2019, in Orlando, Fla.

"I'm playing well, I'm getting myself into contention every week, continue to do that, going into next week [at the Players Championship]", McIlroy said. "I guess I've become a lot more comfortable with the fact I'm going to fail more times than I succeed at that certain conquest or whatever you want to call it".

"It was nice for that one to go in to cap off a really good round", McIlroy said.


"I didn't have my best stuff and I sort of grinded away and had a putt on the last, what looked like to be in a play-off, but that was the start of Francesco sort of lighting it up".

Molinari did it playing a new set of clubs for the first time, but it was his putter that carried him to victory on Sunday.

A win this week would be McIlroy's 15th in his PGA Tour career, which would make him only the third golfer along with Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods with 15 wins and four major championships before the age of 30.

Rickie Fowler (T40): Fowler finally had it cruising in the proper direction on Sunday afternoon before he was upended by a double bogey and a bogey late in the day to drop out of the top 25. Fitzpatrick, 24, has won five times on the European tour and is looking for his first win in America.

"To do it here at Arnie's place, knowing my wife and kids are watching from home, it's very special", Molinari said.


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