Golf: Jason Day turns up the heat on a freezing day in Orlando

Jason Day of Australia playing a shot during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented By MasterCard at Bay Hill Club and Lodge on March 17, 2017, in Orlando, Florida.
Jason Day of Australia playing a shot during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented By MasterCard at Bay Hill Club and Lodge on March 17, 2017, in Orlando, Florida.PHOTO: AFP

MIAMI • Defending champion Jason Day coped with "brutally chilly" temperatures to finish three strokes behind first-round leaders Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick and Argentina's Emiliano Grillo at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando on Thursday.

In the first staging of the event since the September death of Palmer, Day adjusted to the conditions well enough to shoot a two-under 70 on the Bay Hill course.

While Day is using this week as part of his build-up for next month's Masters, Danny Willett's preparation for his title defence at Augusta National suffered a setback when he pulled out shortly before his tee time because of illness.

It was only a few degrees above freezing when Day teed off about an hour after sunrise, and he had to adjust quickly to the shorter ball carry with, he said, his mid-irons travelling about 20 yards less than usual.

"I don't play social golf in cold weather," the Australian told Golf Channel.

Day used last year's Arnold Palmer Invitational as a springboard to a sizzling spring. It was the first of three victories in six starts.

Though he is still ranked second in the world behind Dustin Johnson, Day has not quite been firing on all cylinders so far this year.

"Hopefully I'll be ready by Augusta," he said.

His 70 was matched by a 12-man pack that included South African Louis Oosthuizen, Canadian Adam Hadwin and Sweden's Alex Noren.

England's Paul Casey shared third, one stroke off the pace, with Americans Lucas Glover and Charley Hoffman.

In Phoenix, Major winners Chun In Gee of South Korea and Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn shared the lead with three others atop a crowded first-round leaderboard at the LPGA Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Thursday.

Ariya and Chun both shot eight-under 64 at the Desert Ridge Course in searing 32 deg C heat for a five-way tie for first with Americans Katie Burnett, Sandra Changkija and Stacy Lewis.

Michelle Wie shot a 65 to tie with Vicky Hurst, Julie Inkster, Jane Park and Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong for second place.

World No. 1 Lydia Ko shot 68.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2017, with the headline 'Jason turns up the heat on a freezing Day in Orlando'. Print Edition | Subscribe