ORLANDO, Fla. -- Martin Laird has already qualified for the Masters.
Plenty of others behind him on the leaderboard have not, including Spencer Levin, Marc Leishman and Augusta, Ga., native Charles Howell III. All three need a win to get into the field since none of them has a chance to be in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings by Sunday night.
If none of them gets it this week, they’ll have one more opportunity in next week’s Shell Houston Open, where all three are in the field.
Levin, of course, is also trying to win for the first time on the PGA TOUR after a couple of near-misses -- but Augusta National won’t be too far removed from his thoughts.
"It's in the back of my mind for sure," said Levin, who has never played in the Masters. “I'm sure it is for everybody who is in my position and needs a win to get there.”
Howell is trying to get to his hometown event for the first time since 2008 after falling all the way to 149th in the world.
Leishman and Senden are both looking for return invitations to Augusta National, too. Leishman missed the cut last year in his only appearance there, while Senden missed the cut in his two appearances.
Then there’s J.B. Holmes. He’s pretty much the only player who could move inside the top 50 in the World Rankings to qualify for the Masters.
Depending on some other things, it looks like Holmes, who has only played in one Masters, would need to finish fourth or better. He’s currently tied for 16th and 1 under through four holes today. -- Brian Wacker
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Martin Laird leads by two in today’s final round at Bay Hill, where Tiger Woods had a rare early tee time for a Sunday. Can Laird win for the second time in his career on the PGA TOUR, or will Spencer Levin catch him? Or will it be someone like Bubba Watson or Rickie Fowler? The supposed 20-mph winds that were supposed to come today haven’t so far.
-- Martin Laird has now held at least a share of the 54-hole lead three times in his PGA TOUR career. In both of his previous 54-hole leads, he eventually lost in a playoff. He led by three strokes after 54 holes in 2010 at The Barclays before a final-round 71 led to a playoff loss to Matt Kuchar. Later in 2010, he carried a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open before a final-round 69 led to a playoff loss to Jonathan Byrd.
-- Laird has three top-10s in seven previous starts this season. He has top-25 finishes in four of his last five starts, including top-10s in his last two starts: T10-WGC-Cadillac Championship and T5-Transitions Championship.
-- Laird finished 74th last year in his only other start at the Arnold Palmer Invitational (2010).
-- The 54-hole leader/co-leader of the Arnold Palmer Invitational has previously gone on to win 20 of 45 times, most recently Ernie Els in 2010.
-- In 72-hole stroke-play events, the third-round leader has held on to victory six of 12 times so far this year.
-- The last player to make the Arnold Palmer Invitational his first TOUR win was Paul Goydos in 1996.
-- So far this year, Levin has collected two top-10 finishes, a T4 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and then a playoff loss to Johnson Wagner at the Mayakoba Golf Classic.
-- Levin is making his first start at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He is seeking to become the first player since Robert Gamez in 1990 to win in his first start at the event.
-- In 2010, Levin ranked No. 1 on TOUR in rounds in the 60s (52/31 events) and rounds under par (66), as well as T1 in cuts made (24).
ORLANDO, Fla. -- There was a time in Spencer Levin’s career when back-to-back bogeys late in the third round of a tournament he was contending in would have sent him off the deep end and tumbling into an abyss of self-destruction.
Instead, Levin, who three-putted from 59 feet on No. 15 and found the water on his approach shot on 16, responded by making back-to-back pars on 17 and 18 to close out a 1-under 71 that has him two shots off the lead of Martin after three rounds at Bay Hill.
“I think it comes maybe with age and just learning, maturing a little bit and then watching ‑‑ you watch all of the best players in the world,” Levin said. “As a kid you think they never miss a shot, they never miss a putt or anything like that. And even the best players in the world are going to miss a shot from time to time.
“And it seems like they don't let it bother them and get down on themselves. When you see the best doing it, you know there's a reason why. And I've learned that if you want to compete with the best, you have to act like a pro.”
Levin played like one on Saturday in a round that could have easily gotten away from him when he bogeyed the par-3 second hole and with Laird at one point stretching his lead to four shots.
That’s not to say Levin still doesn’t get upset as was evident on a couple of occasions during his round.
”I can't help it,” Levin said. “Obviously in my mind I'll be frustrated on a bad shot. I've never in any tournament really like messed up and then just kind of not really cared about it. I get upset in my mind but I'm learning to control that and just try and get refocused.”
Now Levin will focus on trying to win for the first time in his career. He’s already come close a couple of times.
Earlier this year, Levin shot a final-round 65 in Mexico before ultimately losing in a playoff.
At the end of last year, Levin tied for fourth in Las Vegas and tied for third at Disney -- the former locked up his PGA TOUR card for this season.
“I was playing well a lot of the year like through the first three rounds, and I would mess up on Sundays and I think a lot of that had to do with I was kind of thinking about the money list,” Levin said of his past experiences. “I think I was putting a lot of added stress on myself about that.
”This year now, I don't have to worry about it. I've got my card locked.”
Reminded of the good finishes he had to secure that card, however, Levin is hoping he can draw on that experience Sunday.
“Thanks, man. This might help me [Sunday] if I think about that,” Levin said. “Maybe I should.” -- Brian Wacker
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Bubba Watson just bombed in a 38-foot birdie butt on the 18th hole, and Martin Laird just bogeyed the par-3 14th after missing the green, but Bay Hill has turned into a bit of a two man race between Laird and Spencer Levin.
Laird and Levin are tied at 11 under, and Watson is in the clubhouse at 7 under after a 68. Rickie Fowler is also at 7 under with two holes left in what’s been a wild round for the 22-year old. But no one has been able to catch Laird or Levin.
Laird has hit every fairway and 10 of 14 greens in regulation, but he hasn’t exactly putted great with 23 putts so far -- he hasn’t made anything longer than 8 feet.
Levin, on the other hand, recovered nicely from an early bogey on No. 2 and has made four birdies since. One of those came courtesy of a chip-in on No. 3.
In case you’re wondering, the largest 54-hole lead ever in this event is six shots by Fred Couples in 1992 and Mike Nicolette in 1983.
The biggest comeback in the final round? Six shots by Gary Koch in 1984 and Tom Kite in 1982. -- Brian Wacker
The third round is in full swing at Bay Hill, were Martin Laird leads by one over Spencer Levin and K.J. Choi. Steve Marino, Charles Howell III and Hunter Mahan are a few of the players in contention. Tiger Woods is also on the golf course. Click here for live scores.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- What do most of the players at or near the top of the leaderboard have in common? They’ve all been very good around the green this week in terms of getting up and down. That includes leader Martin Laird, who is fourth in the field in terms of scrambling at 80 percent. -- Brian Wacker
Scrambling leaders through two rounds
|Spencer Levin||92 percent – 1st||T2|
|K.J. Choi||82 percent – T2||T2|
|Charles Howell III||82 percent – T2||T4|
|Martin Laird||80 percent – T4||1st|
|Vaughn Taylor||80 percent – T4||T4|
ORLANDO, Fla. -- How good has Martin Laird been through not only his two rounds here at Bay Hill, but recently?
Laird, who’s coming off back-to-back top-10s, is now 27 under in his last 10 rounds on the PGA TOUR and has played nine of his 10 rounds under par.
This week, Laird has missed just 10 greens through two rounds. And even when he has missed the green, he’s made par or better eight times -- that ties for fifth best in the field. It also shouldn’t come as a surprise. Laird entered the week ranked sixth on TOUR in scrambling, saving par 69 percent of the time.
Meanwhile, Choi’s 64 was his low round of the season and leaves him one shot back of Laird.
As mentioned earlier, putting was the Key to Choi’s round. He took just 24 putts on Friday (seven fewer than in the opening round) and those covered 118 feet.
Cho is also leading the field in approach shot distance to the pin at just 25 feet, compared to the field average of 40 feet.
Though Levin lost his lead, he continued to scramble well. Through two rounds he’s made par or better 11 of 12 times when missing the green (best in the field) and is average 5 1/2 feet on all chip shots.
Levin has also made eight putts from beyond 10 feet (second-most in the field) and he’s also converted seven of 13 putts from 10-20 feet.
MORE NEWS AND NOTES
-- Hunter Mahan, who is tied for fourth at 6 under, leads the field in greens in regulation at 83 percent after hitting 30 of 36.
-- Lee Janzen leads the field with only 48 putts (23-25) after the first two rounds.
-- Vijay Singh missed his first cut in 18 appearances at Bay Hill. He had made 17 consecutive from 1993-2009. He did not play last year due to injury.
-- Andy Bean (MC) made his first start on TOUR since 2003, when he finished 75 th at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
-- Erik Compton made his second straight cut at Bay Hill. He finished in a tie for 30th last year and missed the cut here in 2009 and 2003.
-- TOUR rookie Kyle Stanley has made eight of nine cuts on TOUR this year. His only missed cut was last week at the Transitions Championship.
-- Rocco Mediate made his first cut since the Sony Open in Hawaii. Since Hawaii, Mediate had three missed cuts and two WDs.
-- Sam Saunders, grandson of tournament host Arnold Palmer, made his second straight cut on TOUR. He finished in a tie for 15th at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am after missing the cut in his first start of the year at the Bob Hope Classic.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Spencer Levin said earlier that he felt he got a lot out of his round because he didn’t hit it nearly as well as he scored. And so far, his 2-under 70 is standing up with Levin holding a two-shot lead over Steve Marino and Charles Howell, who had the low round of the day with a 65.
Right behind Howell and Marino, though, is Rickie Fowler, who is 3 under on his round with two holes to play and 6 under for the week. Hunter Mahan is right there, too. He’s 2 under on the day and one shot back of Fowler.
Phil Mickelson? He’s gone backwards today at 3 over through 14 holes to drop to even par for the tournament.
The sixth hole proved to be Mickelson’s waterloo, so to speak, with the left-hander rinsing his tee shot and then hitting his next one into a fairway bunker. Mickelson was forced to lay up from there before eventually finishing with a triple-bogey 8.
As for the cut line, it’s currently at 4 over. As a point of reference, the highest cut this season was 6 over at the par-70 PGA National. The highest cut in tournament history was 10 over in 1983.
Those currently outside the cut line include Bill Haas (still on the course), Camilo Villegas, Sean O’Hair (on the course), Ryo Ishikawa, Graeme McDowell and Jhonattan Vegas. -- Brian Wacker