There's a logjam at the top and a shootout in the making.
After two rounds of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard, there isn't much separation among the contenders, though one name surely stands out. Even with an uncharacteristically poor finish, seven-time champion Tiger Woods is still well in the picture here at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge.
The leaders through 36 holes at nine-under-par 135 are Justin Rose and Bill Haas, each seeking his fifth PGA TOUR title. Rose, the first-round leader, bogeyed the last hole to post 70, while Haas, despite a stiff neck, shot the day's low score, a bogey-free six-under 66, his personal best on the Championship Course.
"I feel good about shooting two good scores at this place," said Haas, whose dad, Jay, tied for sixth in the first Bay Hill tournament in 1979, the Bay Hill Citrus Classic. "I didn't know the media tent where it was; I've never been in here. Never had that much great success here, but I've always enjoyed coming."
In third place alone, one shot back at 136, is John Huh, the 2012 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year, who ran in a 22-footer for birdie on No.18 to shoot 69. J.J. Henry, Ken Duke and Jimmy Walker were another two strokes back at 138 followed by Woods, Mark Wilson and 2007 Bay Hill winner Vijay Singh at 139. Wilson and Singh both shot 68.
"It's been a while for me to be in contention, so I'd love to go out there and play tomorrow and Sunday as well," said Huh, who won the OHL Classic at Mayakoba last year and became the second-youngest player to reach the TOUR Championship.
Woods was five under on his round and just one shot back when a collection of wayward tee balls resulted in bogeys on each of his last three holes. He had to settle for a 70. He was disappointed but chose to look at the bigger picture.
"I'm only four back," said Woods, who has won 76 TOUR titles.
Maybe so, but he's got plenty of company among those in contention. Twenty players begin the third round within six shots.
Of course, Woods lurking near the top gets everyone's attention.
"Yeah, there is no doubt. You always sense his presence," Rose said. "If you can keep your nose in front of him, you've probably signed for that right now and take your chances. But at the end of the day, you've only got to look at the golf course... You've got to have your head down, focusing, one shot at a time and executing as best you can. That is the way to get it done."
Rose and Woods played together the first two rounds with two-time Bay Hill winner Ernie Els, which was good preparation for Rose sharing the final tee time today with Haas.
"It was a rowdy day out there," Rose, a Lake Nona resident, said with a smile. "Bay Hill, Friday afternoon, it is what it is."
With heavy rain moving in late Friday, the Championship Course might be receptive to more low scores. That brings many even more players into the picture. "If you can be on with your irons, you're going to be able to make some birdies," Rose said.
Among the notables missing the cut at three-over-par 147 included three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, who had three sevens on his card and shot 79 for a 152 total. FedExCup leader Brandt Snedeker posted his second 76. Els, the reigning Open champion, and Webb Simpson, the U.S. Open champion, also fell short.
Kevin Chappell scored the 17th hole-in-one in tournament history when he holed out from 216 yards with a 5-iron at the par-3 14th hole. It was the first ace at No. 14 since 1991.