Thursday, March 25, 2010

Golf Magazine's Cameron Morfit live blogged the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Leaderboard | Round 1 Photos | Course Profile | TV Schedule 5:59 Very nice par putt from Love, who cards a 66 to tie Holmes for the 18-hole lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard. So at the end of the day it's Holmes and Love at 6-under, Henrik Stenson and Mike Weir a shot back, and Robert Allenby and Ernie Els leading a large contingent another shot back at 4-under. With one eye on Bay Hill, one eye on Augusta, signing off ...  5:58 Love leaves himself a six-footer for par on 18. With Phil off the course, we're seeing some new faces on the telecast. Alex Prugh, eagle, back to even par. Too early to say if he'll be Rookie of the Year, but he's my ROY so far. 5:55 First Allenby, now Love? On the heels of then-co-leader Allenby's double-bogey on 18, co-leader Love blows his approach shot over the 18th green, onto a grassy bank. That third shot could be nasty. 

5:51 We have a confirmed Pat Perez sighting, 2-under through 17 holes. He's got some birdies to make if he's going to reach his goal of making this year's U.S. Ryder Cup team.  5:48 Mickelson knocks in testy six-footer for par on 18 to card 1-under 71. That's a pretty solid start for a guy who just showed up last night and hadn't even seen the redesigned Bay Hill. 5:46 Good line by Roger Maltbie on Allenby's bogey putt on 18: "Isn't this the same putt that Tiger makes every year to win?" It is, but Allenby misses it, double-bogeys and finishes with 4-under 68. 5:44 Davis Love III rolls in birdie putt to take a share of the lead at 6-under through 17 holes. 5:40 What the? Allenby miss-hits approach shot into the soup on 18, from the middle of the fairway. So much for holding a share of the lead. 5:35 Nice to see Chris DiMarco in the house at 3-under 69. He's struggled for a while now. Ditto for Stuart Appleby, who got in at 2-under 70. Both of those guys could use a top 10 in a big way. 5:30 Allenby rolls in his short birdie putt to go to 6-under for the day, tied with Holmes for the lead. Phil follows Allenby's lead and makes his own short birdie putt to get to 1-under. 5:24 Mickelson stripes a 6-iron to roughly five feet on 17. He'll have that to get back to red numbers for the day, which would be a nice start considering he had no practice rounds this week. 5:22 Allenby sticks 5-iron to maybe six feet away from the pin on par-3 17th hole. He could be tied for the lead within the next 10 minutes. 5:21 Mickelson shoves his birdie try on 16 and remains at even par for the tournament. Not a very impressive start for my pre-tournament favorite, but there's plenty of time remaining. 5:18 Allenby misses 15-footer for eagle but taps in for birdie on 16 to get to 5-under, just a shot behind leader J.B. Holmes. Love those tap-in birdies. 5:17 Sam Saunders about to birdie his second hole in a row to get to even par for the tournament, making grandpa Arnold proud. The kid's getting some serious airtime considering he's seven off the lead. 5:16 Phil blasts out of greenside bunker on 16 to maybe nine feet past the pin for birdie try. 5:15 Marc Leishman sticks one close on 18. The 2009 Rookie of the Year is 2-under for the day. I can't look at that 18th green without thinking of Tiger making winning putts in 2009 and '08. 5:10 Stricker birdies the newly par-5 16th hole to get to 3-under, followed by Mickelson hooking his second shot into 16 and missing into a greenside bunker.  5:06 Lefty busts it off the tee on 16, now a par 5 for the first time since 2006. He finds the first cut right of the fairway and will have a go at it in two after two straight bogeys. 5:04 Phil Mickelson fails to get his sand-save on 15, shoving an eight-foot par putt and falling to even par for the tournament. His crazy-left drive set him up for that, his second bogey in a row. 5:03 So much for my Rickie Fowler pick yesterday. The kid made a triple-bogey 7 on the ninth hole and is now 4-over through 11 holes. What a difference between junior golf, when he won at Bay Hill, and now.  4:59 Sam Saunders does in fact make his birdie to get back to only 1-over for the tournament. Not a bad showing for Arnold's grandson. I hope this kid ends up making it on Tour somehow. He's a really nice guy. 4:56 J.P. Hayes rolls in birdie to get to 2-under through 17 holes. Sam Saunders hanging around at 2-over, hits it tight on the third hole, his 12th of the day. Mickelson looks as if he'll salvage par on 15. I think. 4:48 Wait a minute! Did I say earlier that I like Henrik Stenson (5-under 67) to win this thing? I'm rethinking that. Ernie Els shot 68. He's won Bay Hill before. I'll have to pick Els over Stenson. That new 15th tee, which has been moved to the other side of Bay Hill Drive, is odd looking. It appears the players are in danger of driving it right into a hedge. And Mickelson hits one of his patented way-left misses. 4:43 Mickelson pulls his 18-foot par putt and falls back to 1-under for the day through 14. Love bogeys 13 to fall back to 4-under. 4:38 Okay, now I'm hearing conflicting reports about how Tiger's hitting the ball. Rick Reilly's column today quotes John Cook and Arjun Atwal saying he's hitting it great. Palmer's saying on TV that his friends at Isleworth tell him Tiger's rusty. Which is it? 4:35 Robert Allenby rolls in yet another birdie putt to get to 4-under through 13 holes. If this guy's putter keeps behaving, look out. The one caveat is he seems to be one of the players most affected by the new grooves rule. He has a shallower approach into the hitting area, and he's talked more than once this season about rounds getting derailed by catching flier or "jumper" lies. 4:32 And DLIII makes his birdie putt to get to 5-under, a shot back. Does Davis have one last run in him? Will he be this year's Kenny Perry?  4:30 Davis Love III leaves himself with a 15-footer from behind the pin on the par-5 12th hole, which would get him to 5-under and just a shot behind clubhouse leader J.B. Holmes. 4:26 Jason Dufner gets to 4-under with two-putt for birdie on par-5 16th hole. That'll pull him even with Ben (Mini Cink) Crane. 4:23 Mickelson rolls in a three-footer for his birdie on 12 to get to 2-under. He's hitting Howitzers off the tee today; had a 5-iron in for second shot, according to Golf Channel. 4:20 Robert Allenby rolls in three-footer for birdie on 12 to get to 3-under for the day. I'm starting to like my January prediction that he'd contend at the Masters. Yeah, he's not a dynamite putter, but then again neither is Vijay Singh. 4:17 Lefty sizing up around a 20-footer for eagle on 12, pulls it badly and knew it as soon as he hit it. 4:10 Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton 1-under through his first eight holes. Good for Palmer for giving this amazing kid an invitation. The Golf Channel can't get enough of Rickie Fowler even though he hasn't won yet. Fowler is the new Camilo Villegas circa 2006-2007: winless but full of irresistible potential. Philly Mick just pounded it on the par-5 12th hole in two for an eagle look. At worst he's going to get it to 2-under, but he'll have to eagle it to match leader J.B. Holmes earlier today.  3:59 Kevin Na very quietly cruising along at 4-under for his first 12 holes. He started on the back nine. Na is a sort of version of Tim Clark or Brett Quigley or Justin Rose--guys you watch and can't help but wonder why they haven't won on Tour.  3:52 Jason Dufner, three birdies in a row, 3-under for the day through 14. Duval makes par on 17 to remain at even par for the tournament. But he's through only eight holes as he started on the back. How great would a Duval victory be in two weeks? Would that comeback be even better than a Woods victory? Phil did not drive it in the drink on 11. He's living dangerously. According to GC analysts, he just shot 58 in a recent practice round in California. 3:50 Ernie Els, at 4-under, is backing up his victory at Doral two weeks ago. How high in the Ranking can he go? Mickelson rolls in a short birdie putt on 10 to get to 1-under, and still loses a stroke to playing partner Allenby. Did lefty just drive it in the water on 11? Not sure, from the angle on TV. Sam Saunders, Arnie's grandkid, hanging tough and proving a worthy sponsor's invite. Birdie on his seventh hole gets him back to 2-over for the day.  3:40 Robert Allenby, after a long conversation with his caddie, finally selects a "good, solid, three-quarters 9" iron and dunks it for eagle on 10. He's 2-under for the day. I actually predicted in January that he would contend at the Masters; if only his putting cooperates, I might be right. 3:38 Stricker rolls in birdie on 10 to go to 2-under, four off the lead. He would seem to be a good fit for Augusta in two weeks, the ultimate test of his newfound poise under pressure. David Duval even par through 16, a solid showing for him. One story that has been completely eclipsed by Tiger-mania: the return of Duval to Augusta, courtesy of his U.S. Open runner-up last summer. What a story a DD win would be--almost even more incredible than a Tiger win, but not as heartwarming as an Ernie Els win. 3:33 Golf needs to clone Arnold Palmer. The guy is everywhere, promoting the game. Same goes for Gary Player. Of course they had time to grow into the ambassador role. Will Tiger? J.B. Holmes, like Weir, has an underwhelming record at Bay Hill, the Golf Channel reminds us. I like J.B. Toured a Titleist ball plant with him a few years ago, and he was really interested, asking questions. Ryan Moore makes nifty 2 on 17 to go to 1-under for the day. Still waiting for big things from Mr. Moore.  3:30 Steve Stricker has it to 1-under as he starts the back nine. He has to be one of the most underrated No. 2s in the history of the World Ranking. Mickelson cleans up his par on nine. He's gotta find some birds on the back nine. Is it just me or does that new beach in front of the 17th green look like it should have some toddlers building sandcastles down by the water's edge? 3:25 The biggest surprise on the leaderboard right now is Mike Weir, who's in the house at 5-under. In six previous starts at Bay Hill, he's gone T40, T72, T17, T73, T7, T56. Methinks Weir likes the new Bay Hill. Dare I say it looks a bit more Augusta-like? Oy, Phil just yanked a short approach shot into the bunker on nine. Is it getting too late for Mickelson to get his game in shape for Augusta? He's got just two weeks to find it. Looks like he'll get up and down to remain even for the front side. 3:16 Oh, gosh, here's the Golf Channel interviewing Rickie Fowler about why he laid up in Phoenix. Let's all just get over that and move on. Wow! those are some mighty blue pants by Sam Saunders, Arnie's grandson. Very good guy, by the way. I interviewed him for a Golf Magazine piece last year. So who wins the AP Invitational based on what we've seen so far? I like Henrik Stenson. Time for the '09 Players winner to resurface, and after a 5-under today he's off to a very good start.  3:15 Woke up this morning to find a column by Riles at ESPN saying he thinks Tiger can win the Masters. Say what? I know the Saints won the Super Bowl, and Sandra Bullock won the Oscar for best actress, but I still think I can safely predict Tiger WON'T win the Masters. His brain's gotta be tapioca right now. If he really does win, the rest of these guys may as well retire. 3:10 p.m. Greetings, fellow golf fans. Time to behold the new Bay Hill course in the Republic of Disney, where J.B. Holmes is in the house at 6-under, but Davis Love III is making a big early run. Phil Mickelson just made a testy seven-footer for par on No. 8, to remain at even par. All these changes to the course and he hasn't even seen the place yet! Just flew in Wednesday night. That's getting to be a habit, but family obligations are significant for Lefty these days. 

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