Thursday, March 22, 2018

Rose leads at Palmer; Tiger four back

ORLANDO — Justin Rose started out as another guy in Tiger Woods' group Thursday at Bay Hill. He wound up in the lead.

Rose put on a clinic with the putter and ran off four straight birdies late in his round for 7-under 65 and a two-shot lead after the opening round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

It was only the sixth time in 31 rounds at Bay Hill that Rose broke 70.

"If you had said I would shoot a 65 on the range (Thursday) morning, I would have probably said, 'How many holes have I played?' And that didn't change much," Rose said. "The first five, six holes out there were a grind."

Woods had two sloppy bogeys from greenside bunkers and didn't hit the ball as well as he did when he won the Cadillac Championship two weeks ago. But he made enough key par saves and manhandled the par 5s to scratch out 69, a reasonable start as he tries to win the PGA Tour event for the eighth time and return to the No. 1 ranking in the world.

"I didn't drive it well, didn't hit my irons well and didn't control my distances or trajectory well," Woods said. "But I got around and made a few good saves out there. I got a lot out of this round, and I threw away a few shots as well."

John Huh had a chance to catch Rose late in the afternoon, but needing a birdie on the final hole, he found a fairway bunker on No. 9 and took bogey for 67. John Rollins and Brad Fritsch were at 68.

Rose and Woods played in the morning, the tougher side of the draw because of chilly weather and a strong breeze. The rough was thick without being terribly high. The hole locations were in spots Woods had not seen often. The scores were reflective of a challenging morning until Rose and Woods began to pick up the pace on the par-5 16th.

Both made eagle from inside 15 feet — Woods hit a 9-iron for a second shot on a hole that was playing downwind — but that's where their fortunes changed. Woods came up short in a bunker, hit a poor shot and took bogey on the 17th. Rose holed a 20-foot birdie putt.

In the group at 69 with Woods were Ryo Ishikawa, Nick Watney, Sean O'Hair and Bill Haas, who bogeyed his last two holes.

Phil Mickelson felt terrible about his swing, and it showed in his 1-over 73. Even so, the four-time major champion made an eagle putt on the 16th to reach 1 under, only to throw those shots away with three-putt bogeys on the last two holes.

"I feel terrible walking off the course," Mickelson said, and this was right after he was randomly selected for a drug test.

LPGA: Jane Park shot a bogey-free 6-under 66 to take the lead after the opening round of the Kia Classic at Carlsbad, Calif. Park had a one-stroke lead over Caroline Hedwall and Karrie Webb. Tampa resident Kristy McPherson was 2 under. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome was 4 over and Tampa's Cindy LaCrosse 7 over.