Golf: Corey Conners grabs one-shot lead at Bay Hill

Corey Conners of Canada hits his tee shot at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Florida, on March 5, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

(REUTERS) - Canada's Corey Conners is alone atop the leaderboard at the midway point of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.

Conners, who shared the first-round lead with Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, fired a three-under-par 69 on Friday (March 5) at Bay Hill Club & Lodge to sit at nine-under 135.

He is one stroke ahead of Scotland's Martin Laird, who shot a 67 on Friday.

McIlroy (71), Norway's Viktor Hovland (68) and Lanto Griffin (68) are tied for third at seven under.

Bryson DeChambeau (71) holds sixth place at six under, and Jordan Spieth (69), England's Paul Casey (69) and Justin Rose (68) and South Korea's Im Sung-jae (70) share seventh place at five under.

The only other time Conners was on top following the first two rounds of a PGA Tour event was the 2018 Valspar Championship, in which he finished tied for 16th.

Conners has one tour victory in 100 events before this week, at the 2019 Valero Texas Open.

For the second day in a row, Conners eagled the par-five 16th hole.

He reached the green in two shots on Friday, then sank a 24-foot putt.

The remainder of his round featured two birdies and one bogey.

"It was really solid today," he said.

"I didn't hit as many shots close to the hole as I did yesterday, to give myself as many birdie chances, but I was really happy with how I grinded out a bunch of pars today.

"I was in some tricky spots and, yeah, overall really solid day and nice to finish off with a strong back nine."

McIlroy's up-and-down round included four birdies (three of them on par-five holes) and two bogeys.

"Today was a bit more of a battle, but (I) stayed patient," said McIlroy, who won at Bay Hill in 2018.

"I picked off three of the par-fives, which is good around here. When I put it in trouble I got it out of trouble."

Among the players who missed the cut, which included 73 players at two over or more, were Patrick Reed (three over), Billy Horschel (five over) and Australia's Marc Leishman (five over).

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