A late spurt enabled second-year pro Bryson DeChambeau to fire a 6-under 66 Friday and catch first-round leader Henrik Stenson at the halfway mark of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.
The 2015 U.S. Amateur champion, DeChambeau eagled 16 and birdied 18 on the Championship Course here at Bay Hill Club & Lodge to complete 36 holes in 11-under 133. The performance comes on the heels of having to withdraw from last week’s Valspar Championship with a back injury.
“Yeah, I’ve been playing well,” said DeChambeau, who competed here in 2016 as an amateur and tied for 27th. “I think that rest last week kind of helped. My body wasn’t doing great, and I was able to come out here pretty fresh and get the ball in the hole.”
Stenson, meanwhile, started slowly and needed a string of par saves in the middle of his round before finding his rhythm and carding a 69. “I stayed patient,” he said. “It wasn’t maybe as beautiful as it was yesterday, but still a solid round around here.”
The duo finished two strokes ahead of rookie Talor Gooch, who came in with 70 and 135. Another former U.S. Amateur champion, Byeong Hun An, was next at 136 while Charlie Hoffman also shot 66 for 137. Rickie Fowler, one of the tournament hosts, was among five players who are another three shots back at 6-under 138.
Eight-time winner Tiger Woods has his work cut out for him. His level-par 72 left him at 4-under 140. “Today was a hard fight. It was a grind,” said Woods, playing here for the first time since 2013. “It wasn't sharp, but I hung in there and just kept grinding away. I thought something in the red would be great, and I just wasn't quite able to do it, but came close.”
The cut came in at 1-over 145 with 77 players advancing for the final two rounds.
Two-time champion Ernie Els, who has struggled most of the year, has been rejuvenated by his return to Bay Hill and sits at 5-under 139 through 36 holes. Els won his first title at Bay Hill 20 years ago when he outdueled Tiger Woods and Davis Love III on a 36-hole final day. “I just shot lights out in the morning. It was a tough morning and I shot 65 and that was it,” Els, 48, recalled. “I was cruising.” Els also won in 2010 when inclement weather delayed the finish until Monday.
Another 10 eagles were recorded Friday on the Championship Course, bringing the two-day total to 30 in the “Eagles for Arnie Program.” This week Dr. Phillips Charities is donating $5,000 for each eagle to Orlando Health. The 16th hole has been the most productive thus far, with 19 eagles being recorded on the par-5 measuring 511 yards.