Adam Scott, fresh off his course-record-tying 62 in the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, played, well, Tiger-like. He put more space between himself and the rest of the international field by firing a 68 with a bogey on the final hole for a seven-shot lead headed into the weekend.
“It was a pretty good way to back up a low round,” Scott said. “It's not easy to do that, especially around a tough course. And I think going back to the first hole was key in keeping some momentum.”
There, he saved par with what he called scrappy play. His drive was beyond the cart path on the right.
“The second shot was a bit of a lottery because it was leaning up against the stick. I didn't really know how it was going to come out of there,” he explained. It landed over the left side of the green, 37 yards from the pin.
“My touch wasn't too bad. I had to get it up 15 or 12 feet,” he said. “But the putt had a lot of break left-to-right. And to jam that one in there right out of the gate was good for the confidence starting the day after two really poor shots and being out of position. That's not kind of the routine you want to get in right out of the gate.”
Scott’s first birdie did not come until the ninth. He added four more on the back side before the untimely bogey at the 18th, where a six-footer failed to drop.
“Seven shots over two days is not enough,” Scott said about his position. “I don't think you can ever be enough lead, to be honest.”
Noted names, like Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedeker, Ian Poulter, Zach Johnson, Padraig Harrington and Henrik Stenson, are still in the mix as are many fresh faces.
As with the rest of the Florida swing, lesser-known names also floated to the top. Chesson Hadley, who won the 2014 Puerto Rico Open and the 2013 Web.com Championship, was impressive. He is tied for second with Francesco Molinari and J.B. Holmes.
“Probably the fastest greens I’ve ever putted on. They are lightning,” Hadley said about the golf course. “Anytime you can go bogey-free around Bay Hill, you’re doing something right.” The rest of the day, he planned to watch some basketball. Though a Georgia Tech graduate, he pulls for Duke. (Oops! Mercer wins.)
Molinari admitted a PGA Tour victory would be, to borrow a Ron Burgundy phrase, kind of a big deal.
“It would be huge,” he said. “I think it is something that is really hard to do for us Europeans. It’s very tough.”
When asked about his knowledge of Arnold Palmer’s game, he said he had read about Palmer and had seen tapes of his play.
“To be honest with you, it was probably a bit earlier than my generation when I was watching on TV.” Palmer turns 85 this year in September. Molinari was born in 1982.
Sam Saunders, Arnold Palmer’s grandson, who has spent most of the last five years on mini-tours and on the Web.com Tour, is in the top 20. Palmer often takes a golf cart to go out and watch Saunders play.
“He’s really so conscious about not being distracting to me out there. And he really tries to stay a good distance back,” Saunders explained.
Saunders admits to having had struggles finding his way as a professional.
“Last year was a really bad year for me, but it was the best thing for me,” he admitted. “It humbled me. It taught me to appreciate playing on the Web.com Tour. I’ve been out here the last couple of years, and I basically lost my job and then had to go back through Q-school this year.”
He added that he was appreciative of having a place to play.
Orlando Is Ishikawa’s New HQ
Japanese phenom Ryo Ishikawa, who typically has a following of 10 to 20 journalists and photographers, is spending more time in the U.S. these days. He now has a home within five minutes of the Bay Hill golf course, which he played for the first time when he was 12.
“I was playing on 18th,” he said about his first round at Bay Hill, “all the way back tee. And I hit driver and it came down the fairway, and second shot was 230 yards to the green and I hit driver.” He hits shorter clubs into the green now.
Ishikawa is making the Orlando, Fla., area his new home away from home for part of the year.
“This is my place for East Coast,” he explained. “I have practiced pretty much here since last August. I love this golf course.”
Ishikawa prefers the grass on the greens on the East Coast to that on the West Coast, which is often bumpy Poa annua, except for desert courses. “I can see the line, and I can see the speed,” he added about East Coast grasses.
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.