ORLANDO, Fla. — Morgan Hoffmann finally wobbled after dominating the first two days of play at Bay Hill.
Looking every bit the world's No. 3 player and clearly outplaying world No. 1
On Friday, Stenson was even par after six holes and four under for the week when he said he "kicked myself in the butt a little bit." He responded with six birdies on the back nine for a 66 to move into contention.
On Saturday, Stenson closed his round even more impressively. He was four under on the final four holes, culminating with a tap-in birdie on the par-four 18th.
"All and all, a better player round than yesterday, even though the result was the same," Stenson said. "I felt like I hit better."
Meanwhile, Hoffmann rarely showed the command he had during his opening 36 holes.
The 25-year-old entered the day with a three-shot lead, but carded a lackluster one-under 71. Hoffmann managed just three birdies after he had nine Friday. But it could have been worse.
In pursuit of his first
Sunday's final round is far from a two-man race.
Four players are 13 under, including defending champion Matt Every (69) and Jason Kokrak, who tied for the day's low round with a 65.
McIlroy was positioned to join the mix after birdies at the 12th and 13th holes moved him to 12 under par. He then bogeyed the next three holes and shot a 71. He sits seven shots back of Stenson.
Sunday now shapes up as McIlroy's final competitive round before he looks to complete the career Grand Slam in three weeks at the Masters.
Even without McIlroy in the mix, Sunday has potential for fireworks.
"A lot of things can happen in 18 holes," Stenson said. "We've seen that."
But Hoffmann and the rest of the field will have little chance if Stenson continues the blistering pace of his previous 27 holes, featuring 12 birdies and no bogeys.
Stenson's play the past two days at Bay Hill is reminiscent of the second half of his spectacular 2013 season, when he became the first player to win both the PGA Tour's
Stenson paid a price for his success.
The 38-year-old opened last season running on fumes and failed to build on 2013 like many expected.
"I was pretty drained and battling fatigue, really," he said.
Stenson did not win on the PGA Tour in 2014, but he did triumph in Dubai in December to carry momentum into the off-season.
Now a full-time resident of Orlando, where he has owned a home since 2007, Stenson said a month in Florida in February has him in a different frame of mind this season.
"You got to be pretty fresh and ready when it [the season] starts, otherwise you're playing catch up," Stenson said.
Entering Sunday, Stenson will leave that to his competition.