Late en­try pays off for leader Hoff­man

De­ci­sion to play Bay Hill made after miss­ing WGC event.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS -

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.

CLIFF HAWKINS / GETTY IMAGES

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.

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