Orlando - Spain's
Rafa Cabrera Bello narrowly missed a hole-in-one on his way to taking a
two-shot lead in the opening round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in
Florida on Thursday.
Cabrera Bello, who is chasing his first win on the PGA Tour,
carded a seven-under-par 65 at the Bay Hill course in Orlando after
draining eight birdies and one bogey.
The 34-year-old from Las Palmas, who teed off on the 10th, almost
capped a superb performance with an ace at the par-three second,
drilling his tee-shot to within a foot of the pin.
The near-miss highlighted the Spaniard's red hot iron play throughout
the round, which helped set up an opening birdie on the par-four 10th
when he nailed his second shot to within four feet.
Further birdies followed on the 12th and 13th to take him to three
under before rolling in a six-foot birdie putt on the 15th to reach four
under at the turn.
Although his momentum stalled with a bogey on his 10th hole, Cabrera
Bello's birdie at the second was followed by three more birdies down the
stretch to leave him in sole possession of the leaderboard.
"There's a lot of challenging shots," Cabrera Bello said.
much on every hole it's inviting you to take a risk and it really gets
you focused on what you want to do," added Cabrera Bello, who was
playing alongside Arnold Palmer's grandson Sam Saunders on Thursday.
"I'm really happy to be playing here for the first time. To win an
event that has the name of one of the greatest players on earth would be
really special, but it's only Thursday."
Cabrera Bello will head into the second round two clear of Keegan
Bradley, who shot a flawless five-under-par 67 to take sole occupancy of
second place on the leaderboard. Bradley's round included five birdies
and 13 pars.
Five players were tied
for third after carding four-under-par 68s - Graeme McDowell, Patrick
Rodgers, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson and Billy Horschel.
Mickelson's 68 was distorted by a double-bogey six at the 10th which dropped him from three under to one under.
The double-bogey included a bizarre attempted recovery shot, with the
left-handed Mickelson switching to a right-handed stance in a failed
attempt to play his way out of trouble when his tee-shot ended up
nestled against a fence alongside the left fairway.
The 48-year-old five-time Major winner rallied over the closing holes
however, making three more birdies including a birdie at the last to
stay in touch with the leaders.
Elsewhere Thursday, reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed was five shots off the lead in 15th place after a two-under-par 70.
World number two Justin Rose was a shot back after an opening 71.
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy had an erratic start with an even-par
70, finishing with back-to-back birdies to rescue his opening round.
But it was an unhappy first round for Australia's Jason Day, who
succumbed to a back injury and withdrew after completing only six
The 31-year-old walked off the course after playing his second shot on the 16th after teeing off on the back nine.
Day later revealed he had been struggling with a sore back last week
and underwent an MRI scan on Monday which indicated a tear in a disc.
"I just wanted to see if I could get out here and my back may have
loosened up," Day said. "But, unfortunately, it didn't, so I had to pull
Leading first-round scores on Thursday from the PGA Tour's Arnold Palmer Invitational tournament at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Florida (USA unless noted, par-70):
65 - Rafa Cabrera Bello (ESP)
67 - Keegan Bradley
68 - Graeme McDowell (NIR), Patrick Rodgers, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Billy Horschel
69 - Francesco Molinari (ITA), Jhonattan Vegas (VEN), Kang Sung-hoon (KOR), Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood (ENG), Scott Stallings
70 - Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG), Aaron Baddeley (AUS), Kevin Streelman, Jimmy Walker, Brendan Steele, Martin Trainer, Kevin Kisner, Danny Lee (NZL), Lucas Glover, Shane Lowry (IRE), Roger Sloan (CAN), Adam Hadwin (CAN), Hudson Swafford, Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Tyrrell Hatton (ENG), Jason Kokrak, Luke List, Adam Schenk