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Matt Every explodes for first-round lead at Arnold Palmer Invitational; Rory McIlroy one back

March 5, 2020

Even the miserable, the approach shots that trickle into the water, the “mediocre” chip shots, the tee shots that dump into the sand, are working out just fine for Rory McIlroy. 

On his second shot Thursday on the par-4 11th at Bay Hill, the world’s top-ranked player hit his 165-yard second shot short of the green, the ball rolling into the water. He hit a “mediocre” chip after his drop and was lining up about an 8-footer for bogey on just his second hole of the day. In just fine.

On his tee shot on the par-5 fourth, McIlroy found the bunker on the left side of the fairway. He followed up with a 254-yard 3-iron from the sand — a 254-yard 3-iron from the sand! — that dribbled up to leave him with about a 24-footer for eagle. In just fine. 

McIlroy followed up that bogey with five birdies and the eagle to give him a 6-under 66 to put him one shot back of Matt Every after the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. 

“I think one of the biggest or best shots that I hit today was my bogey putt on 11,” McIlroy said. “I hit it in the water and then hit a very mediocre chip shot. But to hole that putt for bogey, you know, it’s not — making five instead of six there is a big deal.”     

Here’s everything you missed from Thursday’s action in Orlando, Fla.

Matt Every leads

While McIlroy has ridden a blistering stretch to the top of the world rankings — he has not finished lower than fifth this PGA Tour season — Every was at the very bottom last week at the Honda Classic.

After an opening-round 74 at PGA National, Every shot a 15-over 85 in the second round — doomed by an octuple-bogey 11 on the par-3 fifth — and finished last by three shots.  

What a difference a week makes, as the 2014 and 2015 Arnold Palmer champ made seven birdies and no bogeys for a 7-under 65. Two shots behind are Talor Gooch and Scottie Scheffler, and a group of six is three back.

Who’s lurking? 

Gooch held the clubhouse lead for a bit, as he had the day’s first tee time off the 10th tee. Scheffler, meanwhile, turned in a bogey-free round. 

Six players shot a 4-under 68 — Sam Burns, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Tyrrell Hatton, Brendon Todd, Keith Mitchell and Graeme McDowell.  

In all, 59 players shot par or better. 

What happened with some of the other big names?

Patrick Reed, the winner two weeks ago at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, shot a 2-under 70 after hitting his tee shot in the water on the 18th hole. Bryson DeChambeau, the runner-up to Reed, shot a 1-over 73. 

Brooks Koepka shot an ever-par 72 after bogeying his final two holes following poor tee shots. 

Adam Scott, the Genesis Invitational winner three weeks ago, and Phil Mickelson fired 5-over 77s and are tied for 109th.  

How did defending champ Francesco Molinari do?  

Francesco Molinari’s title defense never left the first tee, as he withdrew Thursday morning because of a back injury.

Molinari was replaced by Kyoung-Hoon Lee, who shot an even-par 72. Interestingly, Lee was also hurting, as the PGA Tour’s website said he was involved in a car accident on his way to the course on Wednesday morning.  

What about Tiger?

Tiger Woods’ pursuit of the PGA Tour’s all-time wins record will have to wait at least another week, as he is taking off a third-straight week.

How can I watch Round 2?

You can watch Friday’s action on Golf Channel from 2-6 p.m. ET.

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