Breezes swirled and puffy cumulus clouds sailed overhead providing occasional shade for the sandaled, sunburned, shorts-wearing galleries at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The wind that kept spectators comfortable was just strong enough to be a challenge for the world’s best golfers.
At the lake circled by the third and sixth holes, the breeze had a split personality. It was coming from the northwest on one side of the lake and from the southwest on the other. It was just strong enough to be an annoyance. It cost Keegan Bradley at the eighth hole.
“I hit a really good drive out there, and I had a perfect 7-iron. I thought the wind was in,” he explained. “I was staring at that, and it was long. It was easily a club long.” The wind, he added, has been swirling all week. “It makes it a lot more challenging.”
When asked about the conditions, Adam Scott just shrugged it off. “The wind was a little bit more of a factor today, and it was out of a different direction,” he said. “But it’s been pretty tame out there, really. It hasn’t been brutal.” Brutal, perhaps being at Doral.
While he would not point to Mother Nature, Scott’s seven-stroke advantage has been whittled to just three shots.
Although Scott posted five birdies, he also had four bogeys. In short, he was just a touch off his game, firing a 71.
“It was a good fight back after a tough start,” he said, referring to his bogeys at the first and fifth holes.
He was not surprised the field inched closer.
“When you don’t start birdie-birdie, then you know the other guys have nothing to lose, and they’re going for it,” he explained, adding that he didn’t give up despite his indifferent beginning. “I’ve played too many rounds of golf to know how this goes. Two-over after five doesn’t mean you can’t shoot 68. That was my thought the whole time.” However, he shot 71.
Bradley said he liked coming from behind and pointed to the PGA Championship and the WGC Firestone as events where he had done that in the past. He said Saturday had been about cutting into Scott’s lead.
“I just kind of like that underdog role,” he said, eyes intense. “Playing in the final group with one of the best players in the world at Arnold Palmer’s tournament is what we all dream to do.”
Scott’s performance was enough to give the next 10 players hope for Sunday. They include Matt Every, Jason Kokrak, Chesson Hadley, Francesco Molinari, Ryo Ishikawa and Morgan Hoffmann, all PGA Tour non-winnners, and Ian Poulter and J.B. Holmes, winners in past PGA Tour events.
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.