Late entry pays off for leader Hoffman
Decision to play Bay Hill made after missing WGC event.
Charley Hoffman wasn’t expecting to be at Bay Hill until he didn’t qualify for a World Golf Championships event next week.
The change in plans has worked out nicely so far.
In only his fourth appearance in the Arnold Palmer Invitational over the last decade, Hoffman made seven birdies in slightly warmer conditions in Orlando on Friday for a 6-under 66 that gave him a one-shot lead over Emiliano Grillo of Argentina.
Grillo made two eagles on his opening nine, holing a 35-yard bunker shot on the par-5 12th and chipping in from just off the green on the par-5 16th. He made birdies on the par 5s on the front nine that carried him to a 68. Matt Fitzpatrick of England had four birdies on the back nine for a 69 and was two shots behind. Hoffman was at 10-under 134.
Sam Saunders, the 29-yearold grandson of Palmer, had three straight bogeys around the turn and never caught up. He wound up with another 74 and missed the cut by one shot in the first Arnold Palmer Invitational since the death of the beloved tournament host last September.
“I don’t know, I’ve got a monkey on my back there where I just always seem to work my way toward that cut number and think about it too much,” Saunders said. “It’s all part of the learning experience, and just got to get better.” The cut was 3-over 147. Hoffman only had to finish 41st at the Valspar Championship last week to get one of the 64 available spots through the world ranking for the Dell Technologies Match Play next week in Austin, Texas. Instead, he missed the cut and will be the second alternate, unlikely to get in.
So he added Bay Hill, a decision that was even easier because it was the first one without Palmer.
“I played halfway decent the first round last time I was here,” he said. “In the schedule, it hasn’t fallen where I would like in the past. I wasn’t in Match Play, and then obviously honoring Arnie is not a hard thing to come here and play.”
LPGA: Michelle Wie is healthy and confident again. She’s in contention in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, too. Wie shot a 5-under 67 on Friday on another hot and low-scoring day at Desert Ridge in Phoenix to enter the weekend a stroke behind leaders Stacy Lewis and Ariya Jutanugarn.
Winless in 62 events since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open, Wie is coming off a fourthplace tie two weeks ago in Singapore.
Lewis and Jutanugarn played together, each following an opening 64 with a 67 to reach 13 under in the tournament that broke the LPGA Tour record for the lowest 36-hole cut at 5 under.
Champions: Fred Couples shot an 8-under 65 on Friday in the Tucson (Ariz.) Conquistadores Classic, leaving playing partner Steve Stricker two strokes back is his senior debut.
Stricker, a 12-time PGA Tour winner, turned 50 on Feb. 23. He will captain the U.S. Presidents Cup team in September.
Charley Hoffman fired a 6-under 66 on Friday to take the lead in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. Emiliano Grillo is one stroke back.