Fleetwood, Bradley share Arnold Palmer lead

McIlroy makes case for defence | Sport

That he has held the lead just once in those nine final rounds - at the BMW PGA last May when he was tied with Sunday's impressive Arnold Palmer Invitational victor Francesco Molinari - goes some way towards explaining his barren steak. Molinari's was longer than anything Woods ever made, from a slightly different angle. And while it capped off an 8-under 64 and eventually gave Molinari a two-shot victory, the British Open champion had to wait almost two hours to see if his score would hold up. And like many pro golfers, McIlroy was born in another country - as his roots are from Northern Ireland, while he's also a part of the European Tour.

"He's defending champion, he's got a ton of fans over here". A miss from five feet at the next hole rather set the tone for what was to come.

McIlroy had every reason to be annoyed, of course, and not just because of the brutal pace of play.

Lahiri, who was two-over for the first round, seemed to be in serious trouble with a double bogey start that put him in danger of a missing the cut but managed to get to one-under for the tournament, which saw him improve 30 places from Tied-72nd to Tied-42nd.

His biggest regret: "I could have played the par 5s better".

Asked what had elevated his game over the past year, he said confidence had a lot to do with it.

"My Sundays haven't been what I would have liked, but I'm putting myself in that position, so good golf is good golf, I keep saying that, at the end of the day".

Molinari joins recent winners Rory McIlroy (2018), Marc Leishman (2017) and Jason Day (2016). Three players share the 18-hole record at Bay Hill of 62 - Adam Scott (2014), Greg Norman (1984) and Andy Bean (1981). His birdie at the 16th was the only one on a par-5 in the final round, and it was disappointing given he had a makeable eagle putt.

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He was at 9-under 207, which spoke to the difficulty of a fast, fiery course that would have made Arnie proud. 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 other two spots went to Sungjae Im, the 20-year-old South Korean who closed with a 68 and tied for third; and Honda Classic victor Keith Mitchell, who made eight birdies in his final round of 66 to tie for sixth.

Tommy Fleetwood (T3): One of these things is not like the other one - 69-66-76-68. "I did everything I needed to do today to get myself back in the golf tournament, and excited to have another chance tomorrow".

"I mean it's nice to bounce back but when you're coming down the stretch it's obviously a lot of disappointment there as well", Fleetwood admitted. But the greens are so pure, if you start putts on line they have a good chance to go in.

Molinari pointed to the first of his last four victories for sparking his turnaround.

"There's no point in trying to hit it past him or trying to do anything like Rory, we've both got strengths and both got weaknesses and that's why we practice to try and get better", Fitzpatrick said. It's probably more of a test off the tee than the last few weeks.

Molinari has four victories worldwide in his last 17 starts over the last nine months, and the Italian pointed to the first of those victories for sparking his turnaround.

Since then he has won the Quicken Loans National, The Open, went 5-0 at the Ryder Cup and has now added a fourth victory in less than a year.

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