Golf: Hoffman shoots 66 to seize lead at Palmer event

Hoffman of the US plays a shot on the first hole during the second round.
Hoffman of the US plays a shot on the first hole during the second round.PHOTO: AFP

MIAMI (AFP) - Charley Hoffman fired a six-under-par 66 on Friday (March 17) to seize a one-shot lead early in the second round of the US PGA Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

The 40-year-old American opened with a bogey but recovered with seven pars to stand on 10-under 134 after 36 holes at the famed Orlando course where Palmer, the golfing legend who died last September, hosted the event for many years.

"If you get in the fairway you can sort of attack," Hoffman said. "The greens are surprisingly receptive. You can shoot at some of those pins that in the past you haven't and I was able to take advantage of it. A pretty solid round. I'm pretty happy. I hope I can keep it going the next few days."

With afternoon starters yet to finish, Hoffman was one stroke in front of Argentina's Emiliano Grillo, who had nine holes remaining, and two ahead of England's Matthew Fitzpatrick, who shared the 18-hole lead with Grillo on 67.

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, preparing for his bid at a career Grand Slam in three weeks at the Masters, fired a 71 Friday to stand on 145.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion, opened on the back nine with back-to-back bogeys, sending his first tee shot way left and his second into a fairway bunker.

The world number three birdied the par-5 12th, sank a 30-foot eagle putt at the par-5 16th, then sent his tee shot at the par-3 16th into the water on the way to a double bogey.

McIlroy, 27, completed the roller-coaster opening nine with a nine-foot birdie putt at 18 before closing with eight pars and a birdie at the par-5 fourth.

Hoffman, at Bay Hill for the first time since 2013, seeks his fifth US PGA crown and his first since last April's Texas Open.

After his first-hole stumble when he was short of the green on his approach, Hoffman sank a 37-foot birdie putt at the fifth and birdied the par-5 sixth and par-4 ninth. He birdied the 11th, dropped a 32-foot birdie putt at 13, added another birdie at 16 and birdied 18 for the second day in a row, hitting a 10-foot putt to end his round.

"It's playing good and you can make some putts," Hoffman said. "But I expect it's going to firm up this weekend."

Hoffman also paid tribute to Palmer, whose memory lingers this week after decades as the US face of golf, making the sport popular on television and becoming a sports marketing pioneer in the process.

"He was what we all wanted to be, a favourite of the fans," Hoffman said. "He paved the way for all of us."