Bill Haas wanted to atone for the way he finished his opening round. He did that and more Friday and was tied for the lead in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
That sure wasn’t the case for Tiger Woods.
One shot out of the lead with three holes to play, Woods closed with three sloppy bogeys to fall four shots behind going into the weekend. That makes the chore a little more difficult in his bid to defend his title at Bay Hill and return to No. 1 in the world.
”The good news is we’ve got 36 holes to go,” Woods said. ”We’ve got a long way to go. And certainly four shots can be made up.”
Haas not only kept bogeys off his card, his longest putt for par was no more than 4 feet in a clean round of 6-under 66. He was tied with Justin Rose, who was poised to take the outright lead until he was fooled by the speed of the greens after late afternoon showers and finished with a three-putt bogey for a 70.
They were at 9-under 135, one shot ahead of John Huh, who had a 69.
The finishing holes have proved pivotal in the opening two rounds. Haas was challenging for the lead on Thursday when he flew his tee shot into the back bunker on the par-3 17th and had to two-putt from 40 feet for bogey. Then, he three-putted from 8 feet on the 18th hole for bogey to ruin his day.
”So to leave, basically giving two away, my goal today was try to get those two back and go from there,” Haas said. ”That was kind of my mindset today, and then I was able to keep it going.”
Rose went eagle-birdie on the 16th and 17th holes that sent him on his way to an opening 65, and he regained the lead Friday with a 4-iron just off the fringe for a simple birdie on the 16th. But after a burst of rain, he thought the green might be slower than it was on his 25-foot birdie try. He ran it 5 feet by the hole, and missed it coming back.
”But that was the only thing that hampered the day, really,” Rose said. ”All in all, exciting day and I’m in a good position.”
Woods hit the ball better in the second round and had to settle for a higher score, all because of his finish.
He had about 210 yards from a fairway bunker on the par-5 16th and caught it heavy, slamming the sand with the back of his club even before the ball took one hop and tumbled into the creek short of the green. He pitched up to 25 feet and took bogey. Then, he turned over his tee shot on the 17th and wound up in the rough well behind the green, and his chip went all the way through the green.
Woods followed that with a tee shot into the right rough that forced him to play short of the water, and he hit a poor chip to about 30 feet. He missed that for a 70.
”I’ve made my share of mistakes on the last few holes the last couple of days, and I need to clean that up,” said Woods, who made bogeys on the 17th and 18th holes on Thursday in the middle of his round.
That closing stretch wasn’t the only thing that held him back. Woods missed a birdie putt inside 3 feet on the par-3 second hole. He missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the par-4 fourth hole and he tried to jam in a 3-foot birdie putt on the 12th that caught the lip and stayed out.
”He’s normally a fast finisher, and you can expect him to probably finish fast on the weekend,” Rose said. ”He did a lot of hard work today. He actually played really well. I thought he was probably a couple of shots away from shooting 64 today at times. I’m sure he was very disappointed because he actually played some great golf today.”
Sixteen players were separated by five shots going into the weekend, and the question was how much fire the downpour at the conclusion of Friday would take out of Bay Hill.
Ken Duke (68), J.J. Henry (67) and Jim Walker (69) were at 6-under 138. Woods was right behind, along with Mark Wilson and Vijay Singh, who each shot 68. Rickie Fowler had a 67 and joined the large group at 4-under 140.
Rose wasn’t just fooled by the speed of the green on the 18th hole. He also had a spectator get in his head over a 15-foot birdie attempt on the 13th. The putt narrowly missed and Rose spun around and pointed his finger at the noisy spectator. It wasn’t about heckling, rather advice.
”I was reading the putt thinking … `Might go a little bit right-to-left of the hole. Fairly straight overall.’ And as I’m lining it up, someone is like, `It goes right. It goes right. It goes right.’ So I’m like, `OK, thanks, buddy,”’ Rose said. ”It’s just one of those annoying moments where you’re having to then battle someone who planted a seed. And I hit a great putt that’s in the middle with 4 feet to go and it goes left of the hole.”
He smiled when he finished the story. After all, he was still tied for the lead.