Arnold Palmer Invitational round one: Tiger Woods 1 Arnold Palmer 0
“Arnie can’t like this,” says Rocco Mediate. “Players are shredding this course.” I prefer USA Today’s interpretation: “Bay Hill buried by low scores". Not just low scores, but a record 42 in the 60s, with some rounds still to finish.
The rough was as terrible as everyone feared, but those who avoided it had a stroll in the park. The greens are as soft as you like, enabling players to attack the pins for all they are worth. My question is why, in that case, Arnold Palmer & Co made the pin placements so easy?
Expect it to change Friday. Harder pin positions for a start. But the rain that prematurely ended proceedings Thursday could be a harbinger of more difficult times. I always shudder when I think of quoting weather forecasts, but you can’t ignore the suggestion that the wind is going to become a factor. Friday it could gust up to 25mph. Apart from making shot-making more difficult it should firm up the greens and make the rough even more of a no-no.
Okay, I’m avoiding the real story of Thursday. Clearly the answer to my question is a resounding ‘no’. Not only did Arnie not make Bay Hill Tiger-proof, the world’s number one golfer creamed it for the first time in four years. Tiger Woods’s accuracy off the tee was up to his highest levels and he hit a staggering 17 greens in regulation. So what did he think of Palmer’s little wheeze of cutting par to 70? “It felt about the same.” Some put-down!
So shall we just toss the keys of Bay Hill to Tiger and ask him to lock up when he’s finished? Hold on just a cotton-picking minute. Two other guys were able to match him, one my fellow countryman Paul Casey. I know, the customary way of things is for Tiger to grind his inexorable way to the winning line from here. But he’s out in the afternoon Friday when the wind could be at its worst. Maybe there’s life in Arnie’s course yet.
Shame my form picks decided to lose their form. It wasn’t just the rough either. On a day when the course was there for the taking most were plain all-round bad. One commentator thought Phil Mickelson looked uninterested.
Most disappointing has to be Bart Bryant . He was accurate enough off the tee and leads the tournament for putting, but he could only hit 28% of greens in regulation. Unfortunately, that is the the vital ingredient this week.
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