Tiger laments 'bad day' after falling off the pace at Bay Hill

ORLANDO (Florida) • The Tiger Woods hype train hit a stumbling block on Friday in the second round of the PGA Tour Arnold Palmer Invitational, with the former world No. 1 unable to get going in front of a large gallery.

The American began the day four shots behind Henrik Stenson, but eventually signed for a scrappy level-par 72 to slip seven behind the front runners on four-under 140 after 36 holes.

The 14-time Major champion, an eight-time winner at Bay Hill, is on the comeback trail after spinal fusion surgery last April. He was quickly in trouble when he sent his opening tee shot into the rough and had to settle for a bogey.

Woods recorded seven pars before making the turn with another bogey and he admitted it had been tough as he works to find consistent top form ahead of next month's Masters.

"Today was just a bad day," said Woods, who dropped his approaches at the 12th and 16th holes inches from the cup for tap-in birdies to reach level par for the day, and then narrowly missing a 14-foot birdie putt at par-four 18th.

"Today was a hard fight, it was a grind. I didn't hit the ball close. I didn't hit the ball well.

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    Birdies Tiger Woods had in the second round (two) compared to the first.

"But I was just hanging in there trying not to shoot myself out of the tournament."

First-round leader Stenson did not share the same struggles, building on his momentum with birdies at three consecutive holes to cling to a share of the lead.

The 2016 British Open champion fired a bogey-free par 69 to stand alongside American Bryson DeChambeau (66) on 11-under 133 at the Orlando course.

Stenson began on the back nine and saved pars from seven feet at the par-five 16th and 15 feet at the par-three 17th after finding bunkers off the tee.

He also sank a nervy five-footer for par at the 18th after blasting out of a greenside bunker.

"Today wasn't as good as yesterday obviously but the important part for me was 16, 17 and 18," the Swede said.

"I scrambled for par on all three after hitting some not-so-good golf shots, kept patient and made three in a row coming home. Three in a row on this golf course is not bad."

He sank four-foot birdie putts at the par-four fifth and par-five sixth holes, then dropped a 20-footer at the par-three seventh.

"I'd obviously love to get a good result here this week... and carry on with some form in Houston going into Augusta," he added.

DeChambeau, who won his first PGA title at last July's John Deere Classic, closed the front nine with three consecutive birdies, while American rookie Talor Gooch was third on 135 after carding a 70.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 18, 2018, with the headline 'Tiger laments 'bad day' after falling off the pace at Bay Hill'. Print Edition | Subscribe