It was a good opening day at Bay Hill Club for MasterCard's many ambassadors, which is nice timing when they are playing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard.
Brandt Snedeker, who won the 2012 FedExCup title on the PGA TOUR, led the charge into red numbers with a solid 5-under-par 67 on the Championship Course with a bogey-free effort. Snedeker, who has been battling allergies, broke par for the first time since he shot 64 in the second round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open in early February.
"I hit the ball really good," said Snedeker, who is off to an uncharacteristically slow start this year, finishing no better than 11th least. I'm a pretty quick starter out here on TOUR. The first time in my career I haven't played well to this point, so it's been tough to stomach. I'm working hard at it. I should be able to put it together, and I'm getting in my way a little too much."
Nothing got in Snedeker's way on a sunny and warm morning. He had one of just three bogey-free rounds to post his lowest opening score in eight starts at Bay Hill. Francesco Molinari, who also shot 67, and Patrick Reed (69) were the others without a blemish on their scorecards.
Among MasterCard's other players, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter, both who live in Orlando, shot 68, while Harris English carded a 3-under 69. Camilo Villegas had a 1-under 71. Boo Weekley almost joined the party, but double-bogeyed his last hole for a 73.
McDowell may have hit the shot of the day when he eagled the sixth with a putt of 74 feet, nine inches.
Poulter said he figured something out when he hit balls on a simulator in his house for 30 minutes. "Made a slight change set upwise, and feels really good," the native Englishman said. "When you get on the golf course and know you can go at it pretty hard and put it in the fairway and have plenty of looks for birdies, you're normally pretty happy."
English was happy, but got caught up in the score comparison with leader Adam Scott and a few others.
"Normally, you shoot a 69 and you feel pretty good about what you've done, but then you see that Adam shot 10 under and there are a couple of 7 unders out there," English said. "Scores were out there. You had to try and go as low as you can."
That's what Scott was doing as he was closing in on tying the course record 62.
Snedeker was shaking his head. He was impressed. He also couldn't believe what the Aussie was doing.
"Maybe he'll get to 11 under and make me feel even worse about myself," he said, joking.
No, for a change this year, Snedeker had reason to feel good.