DUOONFIREATBAYHILL

Eng­land’s Fitz­patrick and Ar­gentina’s Grillo share lead

New Straits Times - - Sport -

MI­AMI

MATTHEW Fitz­patrick fired a bo­gey-free five-un­der­par 67 on Thurs­day to match Ar­gentina’s Emil­iano Grillo for the lead after the first round of the Arnold Palmer In­vi­ta­tional at Bay Hill.

The 22-year-old English­man is seek­ing his first ca­reer US PGA vic­tory after three Euro­pean Tour tri­umphs, the most re­cent last Novem­ber at Dubai when he cap­tured the World Tour Cham­pi­onship by one shot over com­pa­triot Tyrrell Hat­ton.

“I played nicely all day,” Fitz­patrick said. “Didn’t re­ally hit too many loose shots. I just kept it fairly steady and man­aged to hole a few putts too.”

Eng­land’s Paul Casey shared third, one stroke off the pace, with for­mer US Open win­ner Lu­cas Glover and fel­low Amer­i­can Charley Hoff­man while Aus­tralians Greg Chalmers and Ryan Ruf­fels were in sixth on 69.

Fitz­patrick, who be­gan his tour of the famed Or­lando lay­out on the back nine, birdied the parfive 16th after reach­ing the green in two and added back-to-back birdies at 18, sink­ing a 15-foot putt, and one, drop­ping a 25footer.

He birdied the third after drop­ping his ap­proach three feet from the cup and added an­other at the par-five sixth, blast­ing his third shot from a green­side bunker to four feet and sink­ing the putt.

Grillo en­dured a wilder ride with birdies at the third and parfive fourth holes, then closed the front nine with birdies on four of the fi­nal five holes — three putts be­tween eight and 13 feet and the last a 47-foot birdie ef­fort at the ninth.

The South Amer­i­can stand­out, whose lone US PGA win came at the 2015 Frys.com Open, fol­lowed with birdies at the 11th, par-five 16th and par-three 17th. He missed a 19-foot ea­gle putt at 16 for a tap-in birdie be­fore drop­ping a 40-foot birdie bomb at the penul­ti­mate hole.

Grillo was left re­flect­ing on what might have been a lower score, say­ing he had strug­gled to get to grips with chilly early morn­ing tem­per­a­tures at the start of his round.

“It was very tough, it was very cold this morn­ing,” Grillo said. “I couldn’t feel my fin­gers on the first five or six holes. I made a cou­ple of mis­takes on the first few holes.

“So it might have been an even bet­ter round — but I’m re­ally happy with my play over­all.”

Aussie Ja­son Day, the world number two, was in a 12-man pack on 70 that also in­cluded South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Trevor Im­mel­man, Cana­di­ans Adam Had­win and David Hearn, Swe­den’s Alex Noren and Aussie Aaron Bad­de­ley.

Day said later he was still strug­gling to re­dis­cover his best form.

“I just don’t quite have enough con­fi­dence in my swing right now,” Day said.

“I feel like my putting’s right there, but it’s still lack­ing. It’s kind of all the parts of my game right now are just be­hind a lit­tle bit.”

Ja­pan’s Hideki Mat­suyama, ranked fourth, opened on 73 while third-ranked Rory McIl­roy, hop­ing for a fifth ca­reer ma­jor ti­tle and the com­ple­tion of a ca­reer Grand Slam at next month’s Mas­ters, fired a 74. AFP

AFP PIC

Matthew Fitz­patrick in ac­tion in the Arnold Palmer In­vi­ta­tional on Thurs­day.

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