Fuzzy Zoeller, playing just his third tournament in six months following back surgery, birdied five of the last six holes Saturday to tie Curtis Strange for the lead after three rounds of the $500,000 Bay Hill tournament.
Zoeller, who had earlier rounds of 70 and 72 on the 7,103-yard, par-71 Bay Hill course designed by Arnold Palmer, birdied No. 3 and No. 5 to go two under.
A double bogey on the next hole dropped him back to par, but birdies at Nos. 13, 14, 15, 17 and 18 gave him a 66 and a 208 total.
Strange, winner of last week’s Honda tournament, began the day at 140 and used a string of birdies on Nos. 13 through 15 to forge a tie with Zoeller under sunny skies and unseasonable 86-degree heat.
Two strokes off the pace were Andrew Magee, Andy Bean (who took a double-bogey 6 at No. 18 to drop from a share of the top spot), Larry Nelson and Tom Watson.
“My big plus right now is my patience level is very high,” said Zoeller, who had disk surgery Sept. 25 and didn’t rejoin the tour until the Doral Open two weeks ago.
Paul Azinger, who led after two rounds with 137, bogeyed five holes to offset two birdies and is at 211. Dan Pohl had five birdies on the back nine en route to a 64--the low round for the tournament--and was also at 211, as were Mark Lye, Keith Fergus, Payne Stewart, Greg Norman and Corey Pavin.