Arnold Palmer Invitational: Martin Laird in position to win again, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth look to end droughts
ORLANDO – Martin Laird ended a winless stretch of seven years when he won the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last fall. His wait (...)
ORLANDO – Martin Laird ended a winless stretch of seven years when he won the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last fall.
His wait for another PGA Tour title could be much shorter than that.
Like six years and seven months shorter.
Laird shot up the leaderboard late in the day in Friday’s second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a 5-under-par 67 at Bay Hill and is within one shot of lead set by Corey Connors, who posted a 69 earlier to get to 9 under.
“I knew my game was pretty good. I’ve been getting a little impatient on the golf course the last few weeks and really made a conscious effort to just not worry about anything else, just focus on myself and stay as patient as I can,” said Laird, who won Arnie’s annual gathering in 2011. “And it’s been paying off.”
Two strokes back of Conners and one back of Laird were Viktor Hovland (68), Lanto Griffin (68) and 2018 winner Rory McIlroy (71).
Bryson DeChambeau, who again did not try to drive the par-5 sixth green over the lake on Friday, is at 6 under after a 71. Four players are at 5 under, including Jordan Spieth (69).
Arnold Palmer Invitational: Leaderboard | Photos
McIlroy, taking a page out of the eight-time API winner Tiger Woods’ playbook for success in this tournament, stayed patient, played conservatively when need be and took care of the par-5s as he tries to end a winless streak stretching back to the 2019 World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions.
“Today was a bit more of a battle,” McIlroy said. “But stayed patient. I picked off three of the par-5s, which is good around here. When I put it in trouble I got it out of trouble. A couple of really loose tee shots, one on the 8th hole, I made bogey from there. One on 13, I made bogey from there.
“So hit a few better shots coming down the stretch, but just going to go and work on a couple things here on the range. I think with the way the course is playing and with the weather coming in, if you get it to double digits under par this weekend, you’re going to have a really good chance.
“You don’t need to do anything special, you just need to be really solid, limit your mistakes. I feel like it was a day out there today that I sort of did that.”
Ah, yes, the weather. The forecast calls for rain all throughout Saturday’s third round, with half-an-inch of precipitation expected to fall. As well, winds will be in the 15-20 mph range and will get stronger for Sunday’s final round.
That’s the way Spieth likes it. Making his tournament debut, Spieth said he’s enjoyed trying to get to know the difficult course.
“Even though I kind of feel like I’m still progressing, you can play this golf course and feel like, well maybe I’m not quite as close as I think I am. Just because you have to be so precise,” said Spieth, who is trying to end his winless streak that stretches back to the 2017 Open Championship. “We got what looks to be anywhere from 10- to 20-miles an hour winds and some rain tomorrow and then gusts to 25 or 30 on Sunday.
“So it’s going to be difficult to hit the fairways, which means it’s going to be really hard to hit the greens and you got to be out there scrambling. So I like the idea of that I’m coming from four behind.”
Laird doesn’t mind his spot, either.
“Obviously I have good feelings about this place after winning here, but this course, I like it, it’s a hard golf course,” he said. “I feel like it’s a course you really got to pick your spots. There’s two or three times I said to my caddie, it doesn’t even matter where the pin is, you’re just trying to get it to the middle of the green.
“And I like golf courses like that where you really got to pick your way around it and pick your spots to be aggressive. So hopefully I can keep making good decisions the next two rounds and see what happens.”