McIlroy in familiar position at Bay HillTakes early lead two years after win at Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard touched off torrid stretch
March 05, 2020
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Rory McIlroy sinks eagle putt at Arnold Palmer
ORLANDO – Rory McIlroy was in the Bay Hill clubhouse when he saw a few people asked to remove their hats.
If it wasn’t obvious before, he knew then that he was back at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.
“There's so many nice little traditions here,” McIlroy said after going 7 under for his final 12 holes and signing for an opening-round 66 to take the early lead until Matt Every came in with 65 in the tougher afternoon conditions.
Two years ago, McIlroy came to Bay Hill slightly overdue for a win. He shot a final-round 64, holing the famous, left-to-right slider on 18, and donned the winner’s red cardigan.
Rory McIlroy emerges victorious at Arnold Palmer
Starting with that victory, McIlroy has finished in the top 10 in just under 70% of his starts (27/39), including a PGA TOUR-leading 14 top-10s last season and five in five starts so far this season.
His round Thursday featured a bogey on his second hole, the par-4 11th, but he called it a good bogey – he made a putt from just under eight feet. It was his only wobble. At the par-4 fourth hole, he hit a 3-iron from the fairway bunker 254 yards onto the green, his ball stopping just under 24 feet from the hole. He made the eagle putt.
“Harry (Diamond, his caddie) said that's the best shot I've hit all year, so, you know, high praise from him,” McIlroy said of his 3-iron shot, which came out perfectly and rolled up to pin high.
He said he feels more comfortable at Bay Hill than Club de Golf Chapultepec, where he led after the opening round of the WGC-Mexico Championship only to wind up in fifth place. The style of golf, the greens – it’s all familiar here. And to think he didn’t put Bay Hill on his schedule early in his career.
What was it like to don the red cardigan two years ago?
“It was special. It was warm. Alpaca isn't as comfortable as you think,” McIlroy said. “But it was nice. I mean, for me at that point just to, just to win a tournament again, it was 520-whatever days, and so I think just the, I don't know, the joy in winning again was really, really special.
“You could have given me a neon cardigan and I would have worn it all the way home.”