ORLANDO, Fla. — Somewhere in heaven, Arnold Palmer was lounging on a sofa drinking a Ketel One on the rocks with a twist of lemon, his favorite cocktail, wearing a cardigan and a broad smile.
Palmer always loved tough and challenging conditions for his namesake tournament.
If you’re among the millions of amateur golfers who draw pleasure in watching the pros struggle, Saturday’s third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill was your day as much as it was the King’s.
Eight players posted rounds in the 80s, including Brooks Koepka, one of the world’s most dominant players the past few years.
The average score for the round was nearly 76. Only one player among the 69 in the field shot a round below par — Max Homa with a 2-under 70.
For the first time at this event since 1980, a round was played without a single player breaking 70.
This was ugly.
The leaders entered the day at 7-under.
Tyrrell Hatton, who shot 73 on Saturday, enters Sunday’s final round at 6-under with the solo lead, thanks to a big-time birdie on the 18th hole, only the third birdie on that hole for the day.
Hatton held the lead over Aussie Marc Leishman, who shot 72 and is 4-under, and 2018 API winner Rory McIlroy, who shot 74 and is 4-under.
Sung Kang, who held the 36-hole lead at 7-under, was in position to be at the top of the leaderboard, too, seemingly having survived the triple bogey he absorbed on No. 11, where he rinsed two balls in the water. But he took a triple bogey on the 18th hole after ripping his tee shot out of bounds to free-fall to a 77 and just 1-under for the tournament.
Among those who are right in the tournament include Christiaan Bezuidenhout, the 25-year-old South African who ingested poison as a 2-year-old and damaged his nervous system. Playing in only the third PGA Tour event of his career, he is 3-under after shooting 73 Saturday.
Also at 3-under are Danny Lee, Sungjae Im and Harris English.
Rickie Fowler, a fashion plate wearing a cardigan sweater in honor of Palmer, began the day with hopes of vaulting himself into position, but he could manage only a 77 to stand at 2-over.
“This golf course is a good test without any wind and without much rough,’’ Fowler said. “Obviously, we have got a decent amount of rough this week and the greens are definitely baked pretty good. It’s just hard. There’s no real other way of explaining it. It’s hard.
“I think a lot of people are sitting at home saying what they would do out here, but I wouldn’t wish it on any average or normal player to go try and play what we did out there.’’