Jason Day chasing leaders after tough Round 1 at Arnold Palmer Invitational
Two young studs are trying to defeat the defending champion at Bay Hill
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Matthew Fitzpatrick and Emiliano Grillo fired matching 5-under 67s on a tough, cold, windy day at Bay Hill in the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Grillo’s 67 came in the morning and Fitzpatrick’s in the easier afternoon. They co-lead by one over Charley Hoffman, Lucas Glover and Paul Casey.
Fitzpatrick and Grillo combined for 12 birdies and just two bogeys (both Grillo’s) on a day when just 27 golfers broke par.
“It was very difficult at the beginning, as you can see it was very cold this morning it was more like British weather out there, very tough conditions,” said Grillo. “It was almost freezing temperatures out there, and I couldn’t feel my fingers on the first five, six holes. A couple mistakes in there from the middle of the fairway on Nos. 3 and 4 that unfortunately that would have been an even better round. But I’m really happy the way I played after that and I was able to turn it around.”
Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, had a clean card from the beginning. He had five birdies and no bogeys to notch his 67. He said he was a big fan of the difficult conditions. The tournament grew its rough a little longer this year, and the normally-red scoreboard ran black for much of the day on Wednesday.
“I played nicely all day,” said Fitzpatrick. “Didn’t really hit too many loose shots. Just kept it sort of fairly steady. Managed to hole a few putts as well. So when it all clicks, it’s nice. I like that it’s quite penal off the tee and missing the greens. If you really hit it well tee to green you can shoot some good scores. And I enjoy playing courses like this, it’s a challenge.”
Fitzpatrick hit 10-of-14 fairways and 12-of-18 greens in regulation. He was also top five in the field in putting. Golf is easy when you do that.
Those two have a leg up on the field, but they’ll have to hold off some big dogs going to the weekend. This underrated field has produced a quirky scoreboard that Jason Day is looking to run roughshod over en route to his second-straight win at Bay Hill.
“I think that obviously there’s always just a ... tad more pressure,” said the defending champion after a 2-under 70. “I think the expectation is a little bit more, especially coming back as a defending champion here. You want to play good because you have played good in the past and you want to play good again. But obviously it’s very difficult to come back and defend ...”
Day has not had a terrific year thus far. He noted on Wednesday at his press conference that any poor start is always erased by a win later on in the season. This will be a difficult one, though, as it’s always hard to defend and Day will battle oddly difficult conditions in Orlando.
He obviously knows what it takes to get it done here, but he’ll have to keep his emotions in check on a tough week without Palmer for the first time ever.
“I think is a little bit more emotional this year because obviously, the passing of Mr. Palmer,” said Day. “We’re so used to seeing him around on the driving range, in the clubhouse, interacting with players, interacting with fans, unfortunately we don’t get to see that anymore?
“I think that it’s a little bit, obviously you saw the opening ceremony and I think that was a nice bit of touch, great class that added to this tournament, obviously. I feel good about where everything is, I think I just got to keep getting the ball out in front of myself, try to do the best job I can, hopefully it would be nice to be able to back it up.”
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