ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Sean O’Hair couldn’t think of a bad shot he hit over the last four holes, yet he still made three bogeys.
Tiger Woods was thrilled with his last two bogeys – one after a shot caromed off the cart path, another after a shot no one could find along the banks of the lake guarding the 18th green.
Right after the sonic boom from the return of space shuttle Discovery resounded across the course, Bay Hill lowered a boom of its own Saturday and turned the Arnold Palmer Invitational into a windy, wacky test of survival.
O’Hair managed better than most with a 1-over 71 that put him in the final group with Woods for the second straight year, with one big difference. Instead of being in a five-way tie, O’Hair has a five-shot lead over the world’s No. 1 player.
“I don’t think I can do anything that’s going to make him play worse,” O’Hair said. “I think I’m just going to focus on me and focus on my game and do what I’m doing right now. And that’s just playing shot-to-shot and add them up at the end.”
The math was getting a little fuzzy late in the afternoon.
O’Hair had a six-shot lead with four holes to play, made three bogeys and still was five ahead, finishing at 7-under 203.
Woods only assured himself a spot in the final group when he spent five minutes looking for his ball in the shagging bank, took a penalty drop 145 yards from the hole and made a 25-foot for bogey and a 71.
Jason Gore was going to join them in the last group until he three-putted from 5 feet for double bogey on the last hole.
Here’s how crazy the wind can make Bay Hill: Zach Johnson started the third round nine shots out of the lead, shot a 68 and will play in the final threesome with O’Hair and Woods.
“I don’t know how you’re supposed to play a golf course like that,” O’Hair said. “So I just think everybody tries to hang on for dear life. Sometimes bogey is not a bad score. I think bogey is almost par for some holes.”
It sure felt that way for Woods.
He caught a flyer from the rough on the 16th hole, and the ball bounced high off a cart path and landed some 50 yards away. His chip went through the green and almost in the water. Then he holed a 10-foot putt for bogey.
Even more impressive was the bogey on the 18th with the longest putt he has made all week.
“To be honest, I didn’t want to end up with a double bogey,” he said. “I finished over par, but I thought I played better than that.”
Woods is a five-time winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, yet he has never won when he was trailing going into the final round. His largest final-round comeback on the PGA Tour was five shots in the 2000 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He once overcame an eight-shot deficit in the 1998 Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand.
O’Hair’s five-shot lead was the largest at Bay Hill since Woods led by five in 2003.
Because of rain in the forecast, the starting times Sunday will be threesomes in the middle of the day. If the forecast for heavy overnight rain holds true, it could drastically change a Bay Hill course that has been firm, fast and tough all week.
The third round was the toughest yet, with the average score nearly 3 1/2 shots over par.
“You’re just plotting your way around – fairway, green, then trying to two-putt most of the time,” Johnson said. “It’s difficult. Par is a great number today.”
So great that only four players broke par, and four others shot even.
Ryuji Imada had a 73 and was tied at 1-under 209 with Gore and Johnson. No one else was under par.
Brandt Snedeker had the best round Saturday – a 67 with no bogeys, which was astounding given the harsh conditions. His reward was a rocket ride up the leaderboard, moving up 42 spots into a tie for sixth at 210.
One reason the round took so long was an unusual ruling on the ninth hole involving Kevin Na.
He pulled his tee shot to the left, where there are out-of-bounds stakes near the fence of the driving range. A woman retrieved the ball, and once she was located, the rules official asked where she had picked it up.
She pointed to a spot that was about a foot OB, and official Steve Rintoul told Na he would have to play his provisional.
Na was furious. He said the women’s husband first said the ball was against the cart path, then the woman said she wasn’t sure. He said she only pointed to the spot after Rintoul arrived. Na demanded to see head rules official Mark Russell, who upheld the decision.
He took triple bogey and played his next five holes in 3 over.
“I don’t care if you’re Buddha, you’re going to be upset,” he said. “Am I mad at the lady? No. I’m mad at the situation.”
It was only one oddity in a third round that was filled with them.
Divots: Davis Love III, who missed the cut, might still be able to get into the top 50 in the world and qualify for the Masters, but he needs some help. He would need Stuart Appleby to finish out of the top 32 and Aaron Baddeley to finish lower than 56th. The two Aussies were tied for 59th going into the final round. … Hunter Mahan birdied three of his four holes, then played his final 10 holes in 7 over, including a 40 on the back nine.