Defending champ Rory McIlroy spoiled a brilliant closing nine fireworks display with too many bogey fizzlers on day two at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
McIlroy was one-over at the turn before lightning-up the Bay Hill leader-board thanks to a 15th hole eagle along with three birdies but they were disguised in a sad two-under par 70.
The World No. 6 headed to lunch trailing seven shots behind victorious Ryder Cup team-mate, Tommy Fleetwood who produced a 66 to grab the early clubhouse lead at nine-under par in the Euro 8.45m event.
McIlroy went into day two at level par and after teeing-off at the 10th, he dropped to one-over in bogeying his second hole from a greenside bunker before holing a four-footer for birdie at his seventh. He then found another greenside bunker left at the 18th, or the ninth hole of his round, to walk off with bogey.
McIlroy then lit the fuse on a great six holes when he holed a six-footer at his 10th hole ahead of draining a 24-foot birdie gem at his 12th and following that up in sinking a five-footer for birdie at the fourth hole on the card and the 13th of his round.
Though no sooner did McIlroy get on his charge than he put his second shot, from the middle of the fairway, into a greenside bunker on the 5th, his 14th, for an eventual bogey but then redeemed himself brilliantly on the next hole with the shot of his round in first landing a 316-yard drive slap bang in the middle of his 15th fairway and then sticking a 193-yard second shot to eight feet before holing for an eagle ‘3’ and moving to three-under.
He pared his 16th but walked off with a ‘don’t get in my way’ look on his face after three-putting his 17th for bogey ahead of a closing par and a then share of 18th place, which eventually left him T31.
While McIlroy was in no mood for a long fireside chat, Tommy Fleetwood warmed to thoughts of capturing a first PGA Tour title after his round included bagging a pair of eagles with the first at the sixth and a second at 12.
“I’ve done a lot of good things over the last two, three years, so, yeah, that’s pretty clear in our minds that that would be the next logical step to win in America or win on the PGA Tour,” he said.
“If so, then we’ll see where we go from there. I feel like if we can keep improving. I got off to a pretty slow start to the year so if I can just keep improving and keep doing the right things and focusing on myself, hopefully that will be the result of things.”
Fleetwood’s won four times in Europe while he has finished runner-up twice in PGA Tour sanctioned events including runner-up in last year’s US Open.
After an opening 68, Graeme McDowell returned a poor second round of 75 which included just the one birdie on the 18th, playing as his 9th, which was unfortunately preceded by a bogey on his 8th and followed by two more bogeys 10th and 11th before a final blemish on the card came at the 7th, his 16th.
Shane Lowry had little to shout about too as a second round 79 which included 7 bogeys, a triple bogey and three birdies gave him the weekend off after he missed the cut by four shots.