Tiger Woods signals after sinking the chip shot for birdie from in front of the eighth hole during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Golf Tournament at the Bay Hill Country Club in Orlando, Fla., on Friday. At 3-under 137, Woods remained in the hunt for a sixth title at Bay Hill. A 69 on Friday put Woods in fifth place, five shots behind leader Sean O’Hair.AP photo
ORLANDO, Fla. — Bay Hill was so penal Friday that most players figured it would be difficult for anyone to shoot a low number and separate themselves from the pack. Sean O’Hair apparently didn’t get the memo.
O’Hair opened with three straight birdies and didn’t drop a shot until his final hole, which gave him a 5-under 65 for a three-shot lead over Jason Gore heading into the weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Tiger Woods remained in the mix for a sixth title at Bay Hill, courtesy of a short game that turned a mediocre round into a 69.
Woods chipped in for birdie on his opening hole for the second straight day, holed another birdie chip on No. 8, and kept his round together with two head-turning chips to save par. He was in fifth place, five shots behind.
“You can make bogeys in a heartbeat out there today because the greens are ... not accepting shots very well,” Woods said.
O’Hair was at 8-under 132 and will be in the final group today with Gore, who had four birdies and four bogeys for a 70.
Robert Allenby had a bogey-free round of 65 and was at 4-under 136, along with Ryuji Imada, who had a 66.
O’Hair’s round was set up by his tee shots, and he figured if he was driving it well, he probably would swing the irons the same way. His first three birdies were all within 8 feet, and he had a putt at birdie on all but three holes.
It all sounded simple enough.
“The rough is penal, but if you’re in the fairway all day, you don’t have to worry about it,” O’Hair said. “The greens are perfect. You just give yourself some nice opportunities, and all of a sudden you’re 8- or 9-under par.”
Even so, O’Hair could relate with the grind that it became for Woods, and at times for double major winner Padraig Harrington, who shot a 68 and was at 2-under 138. And he could appreciate what happened to Davis Love III, who had a 74 and missed the cut, seriously damaging his bid to get to the Masters.
It doesn’t take much to get going the wrong direction.
“You don’t really even need to hit it sideways,” O’Hair said. “Just a little bit off here and there, and you’re giving yourself some pretty tough par opportunities.”
Consider his final hole, the par-5 ninth. He hit what appeared to be a good drive, just a little to the left, and found a lie so deep that he felt his best option was to hack out short of the green. It went according to plan until he hit his wedge a little heavy and missed a 10-foot par putt to come one shot back to the field.
Those are the kind of shots that spared Woods.
He opened with two birdies in three holes to get his name on the leaderboard, then went 13 holes without another.