Martin Laird already had lost a four-shot lead Saturday at Bay Hill, and as his 6-iron on the par-3 17th began to fade weakly toward the pond, he wondered if a two-shot lead would disappear even quicker.
He was happy to see it land in the bunker, some 80 feet from the flag. Then came a long blast from the sand to 6 feet, and a par save that felt like a birdie. It was like that all day at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Fla., only one thing didn’t change.
Laird never surrendered the lead.
The 28-year-old Scot made it through an up-and-down day with a 2-under 70 and had a two-shot lead over Spencer Levin.
“That was a big one,” Laird said of his par save on the 17th, one hole after a two-shot swing gave him a cushion. “I was lucky. I wasn’t sure if it was going to make it over the water, to be honest, when it was in the air. And I was lucky to make it over, and then that was a big up-and-down.”
Now comes the hard part.
Laird (11-under 205) is in the lead going into the final round for the third time in his past 12 stroke-play events on the PGA Tour. The prior two ended with someone else celebrating. At The Barclays, it was Matt Kuchar hitting a 7-iron to 30 inches to beat him in a playoff. In Las Vegas, it was Jonathan Byrd making a hole-in-one to win a three-man playoff.
Levin, who had to scramble for bogey on the par-5 16th, put his troubles behind him quickly and finished off a 71 to get into the final group.
SHIN IN CHARGE
Second-ranked Jiyai Shin shot a 3-under 70 to take a one-stroke lead over Sandra Gal after the third round of the Kia Classic in suburban Los Angeles.
Shin, the South Korean star who has eight LPGA Tour victories, had a 15-under 204 total on the Industry Hills Golf Club course at Pacific Palms. Gal, from Germany, also shot a 70.
South Korea’s Na Yeon Choi was third after a 65, the best score of the round.
Michelle Wie shot a 71, leaving her in tie for eighth at 5 under.
FERRIE SHOOTS 60
England’s Kenneth Ferrie shot a 10-under 60 to match the European Tour record and move within a stroke of leader Paul Lawrie in the Andalucia Open in Malaga, Spain.
Ferrie had eight birdies and an eagle to climb 43 places on the leaderboard.
Lawrie, from Scotland, had a 65 to reach 12 under. England’s Mark Foster also had a 65 to match Ferrie at 11 under.