Golf: Aussie Day keeps two-shot lead at rainy Bay Hill

Jason Day of Australia waves to the crowd following the third round.
Jason Day of Australia waves to the crowd following the third round.PHOTO: AFP

MIAMI (AFP) - Australia's Jason Day fired a two-under par 70 Saturday to maintain a two-stroke lead after the rainy third round of the US PGA Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

The 2015 PGA Championship winner shrugged off miserable weather to stand on 15-under 201 after 54 holes in the warmup event for next month's Masters, the year's first major tournament.

"At times it got pretty heavy there with the rain," Day said. "The wind was tricky as well. It was all over the shop. The temperature change, it got a little cool.

"To get off the course under par was a good day. I had the patience thing going out there."

Americans Troy Merritt and Kevin Chappell each fired 67s Saturday to leap into a share of second on 203 with Sweden's Henrik Stenson, who shot 70, with Britain's Justin Rose and American Derek Fathauer sharing fifth on 205.

Stenson and Rose joined Day in the last trio at Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida, where tee times were moved earlier due to forecasts for worse weather by late afternoon.

"I had one or two chances but it was tough conditions," Stenson said. "It went from a golf tournament the first six holes to a survival contest."

Day kept the two-stroke lead with which he began the round, hoping to become the first 36-hole leader to win since Tiger Woods in 2012.

The Aussie is only 1-for-7 at converting 36-hole leads into titles, having done so in his most recent PGA triumph, last September's BMW Championship.

That was also the last wire-to-wire PGA victory, which Day could match on Sunday.

Day, who began the round with a two-shot lead, found a greenside bunker at the par-3 second and made bogey, missing a 15-foot par putt. But he answered with birdies at the par-5 fourth and sixth and par-4 eighth, the last coming when he popped the ball in from 48 feet out of greenside rough.

"About six feet from the cup, I knew it was going in," Day said. "It was good to get one of those."

The Aussie found the water on his second shot at the 11th and took another bogey but responded at the par-5 16th, just missing a 26-foot eagle putt but tapping in for birdie.

Stenson sizzled early with tap-in birdies at the fourth and fifth and a 13-foot eagle putt at the par-5 sixth.

But the Swede gave one back at the par-3 seventh, finding a bunker off the tee, and took another bogey at the par-5 12th, again finding a bunker off the tee and then missing an eight-foot par putt. At 18, Stenson saved par from a greenside bunker.

"It's tough around here in the bunkers. They tend to plug on you," Stenson said. "I was in four bunkers today and three of them were plugged."

Rose, who fired a 71, took a bogey at the second but the Englishman bounced back with birdies at the fourth and ninth. He was off by inches on a 45-foot eagle putt at the par-5 16th but his tap-in birdie was offset by a bogey at the par-3 17th, missing the green off the tee and a five-foot par putt.

Merritt made two runs of three birdies in four holes, the first from the par-5 fourth to par-3 seventh and the other to end his round, to jump among the leaders.

Chappell birdied four of the first six holes, made his lone bogey at seven and birdied 10 and 15 to stay on Day's heels.