Two crazy days at the Arnold Palmer Invitational; Now what?

Max Homa, Sam Burns and Viktor Hovland (left to right) had similar routines for  putting at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.  Facing the hole, they’re straddling the line of their putts to determine the slope of the green. Call this dance-like movement the “Meter Mash?”

ORLANDO, Florida – The second and third rounds of the Arnold Palmer Invitational couldn’t have been more different.

Six players – Shane Lowry, Hideki Matsuyama, Brian Harman, Russell Henley, Scottie Scheffler and Wyndham Clark – were tied for the 36-hole lead, and that was the most co-leaders after 36 on the PGA Tour since the Valero Texas Open of 2010.

That was an impressive leaderboard for the PGA Tour’s latest Signature Event, too, with Harman the reigning British Open champion and Clark the owner of the U.S. Open crown.

Saturday’s third round was different, but had its own type of craziness with constant leaderboard changes.

Will Zalatoris was great early, making four birdies in his first eight holes and opening a five-shot lead after 11. Then he staggered in, making two bogeys before a brutal double bogey on the last hole.

“You play 42 holes of bogey-free and you take it,’’  said Zalatoris, now tied for fourth but just two strokes off the lead.  “Obviously the finish wasn’t what I wanted.  That’s just Bay Hill.  I’m still in the ball game, as frustrating as it was to finish up that way.’’

Three spectators stood out among those following Nick Taylor (left) and Max Homa.

Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy — an early starter — was spectacular on the back nine.  He became the first player ever to drive the green on the par-4 tenth, a 365-yard dogleg right, and that gave him the momentum to play the back side in a record 6-under-par 30.

“The difference between the front nine and back nine? Eight shots!’’ said McIlroy.  “I just didn’t have any momentum. Then the three on 10 with the tee shot on the green, that got me going.’’

McIlroy salvaged a 68, a boost after finishing outside of the top 20 in his last three starts. He’s tied for eighth, four shots off the lead.

The rivals’ problems enabled Scheffler, tourney champion in 2022, and Lowry to claim a share of the 54-hole lead.  Like McIlroy, Scheffler finished strong with birdies at 12, 13, 15 and 16. His 2-under-par 70 on Saturday wasn’t spectacular but it put him at 9-under 207 for three rounds.  Lowry, the first-round leader, matched his 70 with birdies at 16 and 17. They’re one swing ahead of Clark, who made bogey on his last hole.

“Here you’ve got to think your way around and stay patient,’’ said Scheffler.  “You can make some mistakes, and it’s all about how  you bounce back from them.  I’m just doing a good job of staying in my head space on the greens.  Going to the back nine today I did a really good job of just staying in it as much as I could.’’

Winner of the Masters in 2022, Scheffler will defend his title in The Players Championship next week at another Florida course, TPC Sawgrass.

Justin Thomas wasn’t happy with a chip shot, and it showed in his immediate reactions. (Joy Sarver Photos)