Ernie Els had to play out of the water to save par on the sixth hole Friday and steady his round of three-under 69 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Davis Love III didn't make a par over the first nine holes and shot 71. Ben Curtis started his round of 67 with two straight bogeys. D.J. Trahan had a 68 to join them in a four-way tie for the lead at seven-under 137 at Orlando, Fla.
One shot behind was Phil Mickelson, who is starting to find his putting stroke at just the right time. Coming off a round of 58 at the Plantation Club in Indio, the lowest of his career, Mickelson shot a five-under 67, which included two balls in the water and a holed wedge for an eagle.
Starting on the back nine, he poured in three straight birdies from the 11th hole, then added a fourth the not-so-conventional way on the par-five 16th. Fans saw him lay up short of the water and hit a wedge that skipped up the big ridge and stopped three feet away.
Love, who needs a victory at Bay Hill or next week at Houston to qualify for the Masters, stayed in the hunt despite six bogeys.
"A little erratic," Love said. "Made some pretty simple mistakes today that are a little more disappointing than yesterday's mistakes, but again, I made a lot of nice putts, hit a lot of good shots, and obviously made a lot of birdies."
Price, Beck tied
Nick Price and Chip Beck each shot a six-under 66 for a share of the lead after the first round of the Champions Tour's $1.6-million Cap Cana Championship in the Dominican Republic.
Fred Couples, who has already won twice on the Champions Tour this season, made an eight-foot eagle putt on the par-five No. 12 and birdied two other par fives in his round of 67. Couples was one shot back along with three other players: former Masters champion Larry Mize, Olin Browne and David Peoples.