"Comfortable" Saunders Is In The Hunt


Sam Saunders has enjoyed immensely the first two days of the 36th Invitational Presented by MasterCard. But making the cut in the tournament his grandfather hosts isn't anything new.

So he knows there's much more work to be done.

"I'd really like to see what I'm capable of the next two rounds," Saunders said. "It's going to be tough, but I like the position I'm in."

After a steady 1-under-par 71 Friday on the Championship Course, Saunders enters the weekend here at Bay Hill Club inside the top 20. At 4-under 140, Saunders said his composure has been key in his fifth appearance in this event, and it shows; in his previous four starts he had not stood under par after 36 holes.

"Today I was as comfortable or more comfortable than I've ever felt at this stage, in this arena," said Saunders, whose best finish at Bay Hill is joint 30th played the golf course today more like I play it on a week-in, week-out basis at home. I had fun out there and hit some good shots. A couple of mistakes out there today, but in general I managed my game really well, and that felt good."

Saunders, 26, birdied each of the four par-5 holes Friday morning to offset three bogeys. He hit nine fairways and 11 greens and got up and down 3 of 6 times from Bay Hill's ominous bunkers. Until he bogeyed the tough 18th, Saunders was tied for seventh. He enters today's third round trailing leader Adam Scott by eight.

In three starts this year on the Web.com Tour, Saunders has one top-10 finish and two in the top-16. But this week could be special - even more than usual. To prepare for today's key third round, he planned to have a little chat with his granddad.

"Yeah, I'll definitely talk to him, I'm sure," Saunders said. "We'll talk about the course and how it's playing out there. I think he'll pretty much tell me to keep doing what I'm doing and go for it."

Of course he will.

--Dave Shedloski