Hoffmann Still Leads But Rory Lurks


Danny Lee fired the day's low round Friday on the Championship Course here at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, a sterling bogey-free 8-under-par 64. Nice work. He gained one whole stroke on his playing partner, Morgan Hoffmann.

Playing steady golf for the second straight day, Hoffmann, the first-round leader, is showing that he will be tough to catch in this 37th edition of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard. He carded a second-round 65 to complete 36 holes in 13-under 131, a stroke shy of the 36-hole aggregate record held by Adam Scott, Tom Watson and Andy Bean.

Hoffmann, whose loves flying a plane every bit much as the tournament host, is soaring in a way he hasn't previously enjoyed, having never led in any round prior to this week. Now he's led the first two. Nervous?

"I try not to let anything bother me, and, yeah, I'd say I'm trying to have fun, but I'm also very serious and enjoying myself in between shots," said Hoffmann, 25, of Jupiter, Fla., whose probably enjoying more how few shots he's taken. Three behind are a trio of players, including defending champion Matt Every, who fired a 66 to come in at 10-under 134. World No. 3 Henrik Stenson and Harrison English also shot 66 to tie for second.

Tied for sixth, meanwhile, is world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who rattled off five birdies in a row in also posting 66. He's at 136 with Lee, and David Lingmerth of Sweden, who had a 67.

In between, in fifth, is Ben Martin, who missed the cut in his previous two Bay Hill starts. He's at 9-under 135 after a 67.

In case you hadn't noticed, scores are low. The combination of soft greens and little wind is leaving the Championship Course at the mercy of long-hitting sharp shooters. The cut of 2-under 142 tied the tournament record. The minimum 70 players advanced to the final two rounds.

Every has struggled this year as he goes through swing changes, but the Daytona Beach native finds the Bay Hill confines to his liking. And his confidence is growing.

"Whether I was defending or not this week, I'm really excited to play golf because I know I have good stuff coming, really, really soon," he said. "I said before you can lie to yourself. I've done it before where I think I can win at the start of weeks but you know sometimes... it's probably how Rory feels every week, you know what I mean?"

No, but McIlroy, making his debut here, does.

"Yeah, looking forward to the weekend," said the reigning British Open and PGA champion. "Even though Morgan is up there, 13-under, you're in there with a chance and just got to go out and keep playing the way I'm playing."

Lee also would like to keep playing as he did Friday. He took a break two weeks ago after making seven straight starts, and he admits he was worn out. But the former U.S. Amateur champion is refreshed, and he was T-7 at last week's Valspar Championship. Furthermore, his confidence is growing, and took it as a challenge to match Hoffmann shot for shot.

Also pant leg for pant leg. Both were dressed in yellow slacks. "That must have been it," he joked.

But his strategy of playing aggressively to keep pace with Hoffmann paid off.

"Very happy with it," said Lee of his lowest round of the year by three shots. "I had a mindset of just playing match play, almost playing in a match play with Morgan, which helped me a lot. And I beat him by one today so I'm happy."

--Dave Shedloski