Kokrak climbs closer as Scott tumbles

ORLANDO, Fla. – Adam Scott didn’t have to look as far down the leaderboard to find players who suddenly are a real threat to win at Bay Hill.

He described that group – which includes Warren native Jason Kokrak – as players who are “hungry to win,” and Scott served them up an appetizer Saturday in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Staked to a seven-shot lead at the start of the third round, the Masters champion hit enough loose shots and missed just enough par putts to lose more than half his lead and turn his quest to be No. 1 in the world into a bigger battle that he would have preferred.

Scott made a 7-foot par putt on the final hole for a 1-under 71, giving him a three-shot lead over Keegan Bradley going into today.

Scott was at 15-under 201.

Kokrak made six birdies and endured just one bogey in the third round, pulling to within four shots of Scott at 11-under 205. Kokrak began the round with a bogey but followed it with four birdies on the next five holes. Kokrak, who missed just one fairway on Saturday, fininshed 5-under on the day for a 67.

“I hit the ball well all day,” Korkak told Sirius XM Radio after the round. “To hit the fairways on these par-5s is tough, and it’s the great equalizer for me. I can get it in the fairway and hit a long iron into these par 5s. It’s a great help.

“I’m happy with the way I played. I made some putts today, and I’m looking forward to (today).”

Kokrak was tied with Matt Every (66) at four shots behind, giving both with a chance to win on the PGA Tour for the first time. Chesson Hadley and Francesco

Bradley birdied his last three holes, taking on the flag at the 18th with a 9-iron from 167 yards that narrowly cleared the rocks framing the lake and settled 4 feet from the flag. That was the final touch on an eight-birdie round of 66 that put him in the final group.

Tiger Woods, the two-time defending champion at Bay Hill and No. 1 in the world, withdrew before the tournament because of recurring back pain. Scott has a chance to replace him at No. 1 in the world with a victory, though he wouldn’t take over at the top until the week before the Masters.

But there’s too much golf, and now too many players, for Scott to think that far ahead.

“I think I’ve got to go out and try to win the golf tournament (today),” Scott said. “I’m not trying to win the No. 1 ranking. I’ve got a bunch of guys breathing down my neck who all have had nice rounds today and are feeling pretty good about the way they’re playing.”