Lee Westwood snatches lead after third round at AP Invitational

Lee Westwood climbed to the top of the leaderboard after an entertaining third round of 65 to sit one clear at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The Englishman only recorded six pars on a roller coaster Saturday but an eagle-par-birdie finish nudged the 47-year-old ahead of midway leader Corey Conners and American Bryson DeChambeau on 11 under par.

Westwood, Europe’s number one golfer in 2020, hopes to add another title to a distinguished career in which he has won 44 times worldwide as he aims to be the oldest international winner on the PGA Tour for more than 40 years.

“I don’t really know. The first time I played it I thought ‘this is good’,” he told Sky Sports Golf when he asked why he enjoys the Bay Hill course.

“I like the way it makes you shape the ball into some of the fairways. Obviously sometimes you have to hit it straight, like 18 – it’s just straightaway.

“You can fade it into a lot of the fairways, I like fading it up 10. You can draw it into some holes. It just sort of suits my game.

“I’m not the longest of hitters through the air any more, so it helps if I can use a lot of the fairways and everybody else has to.”

Lee Westwood hit six pars, one eagle, eight birdies and three bogeys in his third round
Lee Westwood hit six pars, one eagle, eight birdies and three bogeys in his third round (John Raoux/AP)

The world number 39 opened his round with a birdie before immediately cancelling that out with a bogey.

He kick-started a run of four birdies in five holes from the fourth to make his way up the leaderboard and continued his ascent with another gain at the 10th from 18 feet to get to nine under.

A bogey followed at the next but he recovered with a birdie at the 13th, only to hand that shot back at the 15th.

However, he found the fringe in two at the par-five 16th and sank the 32-foot eagle putt to earn a share of the lead with Conners, DeChambeau and Jordan Spieth.

But Westwood got his nose in front with a superb birdie putt from 28 feet at the last to card a seven-under 65.

DeChambeau entertained the fans as he attacked the famous shoehorn par-five sixth hole, driving over the water for a 370-yard tee-shot which landed on the fairway but carried into the rough en route to a 68, while Canadian Conners carded a one-under 71.

Spieth temporarily held a two-shot lead during the third round thanks to a stunning ace at the second hole, which sparked wild celebrations for the limited spectators in attendance in Orlando.

The three-time major champion remains in contention despite two bogeys in his final five holes as he sits on nine under alongside Keegan Bradley, who registered the round of the tournament with a flawless 64.

Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond hit a hole-in-one at the 14th hole which earned a donation worth 200,000 US dollars (GBP 144,000) for the Arnold and Winnie Palmer Foundation from sponsor Mastercard.

However, Justin Rose – playing partner of Spieth – was forced to withdraw during his third round due to a back injury and is a doubt for next week’s Players Championship.