70-foot birdie in fi­nal hole gives him share of lead with Kis­ner

New Straits Times - - Sport -

CHARLEY Hoff­man sank a 70-foot birdie at the fi­nal hole to tie Kevin Kis­ner for the thir­dround lead at the Arnold Palmer In­vi­ta­tional in Florida on Satur­day.

Hoff­man read a big left-to-right break per­fectly, his ball curl­ing into the cen­tre of the cup on the same green at Bay Hill in Or­lando where Tiger Woods holed so many clutch putts to clinch his eight vic­to­ries in the event.

Hoff­man carded one-un­der­par 71, while Kis­ner fired a 68 to tie it up at 11-un­der 205 with one round left.

The two Amer­i­cans have a three-shot lead over English­men Tyrrell Hat­ton and Matthew Fitz­patrick and Aus­tralian Marc Leish­man.

World No 3 Rory McIl­roy (65) soared to the edge of con­tention, the day’s equal best score lift­ing the North­ern Ir­ish­man within five shots of the lead.

Half­way leader Hoff­man made a de­mor­al­is­ing start with two straight bo­geys, and fur­ther bo­geys at the 14th and 15th holes left him in dan­ger of fall­ing off the leader­board.

“I knew I needed a good fin­ish to run down Kis­ner,” he told PGATour.com after turn­ing his for­tunes around with birdies at the fi­nal three holes.

He has birdied the par-four 18th all three rounds.

Co-leader Kis­ner said he had learned that pro­tect­ing a lead rarely works against the best play­ers in the world.

“I’ve learned th­ese guys don’t back up, so you’ve still got to make birdies and at­tack,” said the 33year-old from South Carolina, whose sole PGA Tour vic­tory came late in 2015.

“There’s no pro­tect­ing leads out here, so I’m go­ing to go play my game and make as many birdies as I can.”

McIl­roy is among those chas­ing the lead­ers.

“I just played bet­ter, holed some putts,” said the man who needs to win next month’s Masters to com­plete the ca­reer grand slam of all four ma­jor cham­pi­onships.

“It’s a score I was wait­ing on. I felt is was in there. It was just a mat­ter of put­ting it all to­gether and to­day I did. At least I’ve given my­self a de­cent chance. I can take a lot from to­day.”

This is the first stag­ing of the event that car­ries his name since he died last Septem­ber aged 87.

He was in­vari­ably at the 18th green to greet the lead­ers at the end of each round. Reuters

There’s no pro­tect­ing leads out here, so I’m go­ing to go play my game and make as many birdies as I can. KEVIN KIS­NER

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