Golf: Scott leads by three midway through third round at Bay Hill

Adam Scott of Australia hits his tee shot on the eighth hole during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge on March 22, 2014 in Orlando, Florida. -- PHOTO: AFP
Adam Scott of Australia hits his tee shot on the eighth hole during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge on March 22, 2014 in Orlando, Florida. -- PHOTO: AFP

(REUTERS) - Australian Adam Scott almost surrendered a huge lead before settling down to hold a three-shot cushion halfway through the third round at the US$6.2 million (S$7.9 million) Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida on Saturday.

The Masters champion teed off at 14 under par with a seemingly insurmountable seven-shot lead in fine conditions at Bay Hill in Orlando.

But a tardy beginning by Scott, who made two early bogeys, combined with a quick start by American Chesson Hadley, quickly breathed suspense into the PGA Tour event.

Hadley made four quick birdies to cut the lead to just one shot after six holes, only to bogey the par-three seventh after his tee shot plugged in a greenside bunker.

Scott, playing behind, picked up his first birdie of the day, a tap-in at the par-five sixth, to steady his leaky ship and suddenly he was three strokes in front again.

He parred the next three holes to make the turn at 13 under, while Hadley (10 holes) and American Jason Kokrak (11 holes) were equal second on 10-under.

Ten other players were within six strokes of the lead early on the back nine.