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Martin Laird takes Bay Hill lead after a 65

Tiger Woods shoots a 68 but still stands six shots back in good scoring conditions at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

March 25, 2011|By Jeff Shain
  • Martin Laird waves to the gallery on the ninth hole during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge on Friday.
Martin Laird waves to the gallery on the ninth hole during the second round… (Scott A. Miller / Reuters )

Reporting from Orlando, Fla. — Martin Laird chased down first-round leader Spencer Levin with a seven-under-par 65 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, rolling home a 12-foot birdie on his final hole to take a one-stroke lead after two rounds Friday.

Laird languished behind Levin's pace for much of the day, finally heating up with birdies on four of his final six holes to wrest away the lead on a benign day conducive to low scores.

"I had a couple of putts [in the first round] that looked really good and didn't go in," said the Scotsman, who reached the midway point at nine-under 135. "And today any putt that looked good went in."

K.J. Choi could make a similar claim after blistering Bay Hill with a 64 that marks a tournament best since all the green complexes were redone before last year's event.

Arnold Palmer Invitational leaderboard

"Today's putting was fantastic," Choi said. "I'm more comfortable, but under pressure, I don't know yet."

Choi and Levin (70) stand one shot off Laird's pace. Gentle breezes ushered golfers around Bay Hill all day, unlike the blustery conditions that ruled the first round from midmorning on.

The result was 23 scores in the 60s, 20 more than the previous day.

Tiger Woods was among that group, with a four-under 68 that included three birdie putts of at least 16 feet. Even so, he managed to shave only one stroke off his deficit, standing six shots back at three-under 141.

Afterward, he said things could have gone even lower.

"Unfortunately, I left a lot of putts dead-center short," he said. "There were about five putts that were dead center. It could have been a pretty special round."

A six-time champion at Bay Hill, Woods is working to battle back from a first-day 73 that was his worst opening round here since 1999.

Among those missing the cut were Dustin Johnson, last week's Transitions winner, Gary Woodland, and U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell.

jshain@orlando.sentinel.com

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