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Rose and Haas share halfway lead at Arnold Palmer Invitational

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 22:  Bill Haas  plays a shot on the 3rd hole during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational

ORLANDO, FL – MARCH 22: Bill Haas plays a shot on the 3rd hole during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Bill Haas was on a roll on Thursday before the Bay Hill Club & Lodge decided to rein in the affable man from South Carolina. Three bogeys on the final stretched marred an otherwise brilliant day. The 30-year-old strode out with purpose in Round 2, taking revenge on the greens with a spotless round of 66 that included four birdies and an eagle on the 16th. Long after Haas put his feet up in the clubhouse, Justin Rose found himself playing catch up. The Englishman caught up and surpassed Haas but had to slip back to a share of the lead after misreading the effect of an afternoon shower to finish with a 70. Both men are at 9 under going into the weekend. Tiger Woods needed just a birdie with three holes to go to join the leaders, but bogeyed the final three holes to slip back to where he started the day – four strokes off the pace.

On another overcast day in Orlando Bill, Haas enjoyed the best part of the day as he made amends for his late blemishes in the first round. Haas is in the midst of a good vein of form – having finished in the top ten in his last three PGA Tour events. It was a day when the chips fell in place for the religious Haas – his approach strokes were so good that the longest par putt he had to deal with all day was just four feet away from the pin.

“Yesterday, I had it really going well. Hit a nice 4 iron at 17, ended up being the wrong club because it flew in the back bunker, and hit two beautiful shots at 18 and three putted from 8 feet,” remembered Haas. “So to leave, basically giving two away, I think, then basically that was my goal today was to try to get those two back and go from there. So that was kind of my mindset today and then was able to keep it going.”

Rose consolidated his position at the top of the pile with an effortless birdie after getting his 4-iron to help the ball almost near the pin. But there was a steady shower by now and Rose supposed that the greens might be slowing down. Unfortunately for the Brit, the moisture hadn’t sunk in just as much as he had expected it to. He found the line on a 25 footer at the 18th but ran five feet past the pin and then overshot his par putt to fall into a share of the lead.

“I mean, obviously, a good, solid round of golf, I guess, especially around Bay Hill. Any time you shoot under par, I think it’s good,” suggested Rose. “I felt like today the course was there for the taking a little bit. I felt that through the middle of my round I was looking at the pins. I was feeling good. I was feeling like I was going to make some birdies.”

For much of the second round, it look like Tiger was on the verge of rolling alongside the leaders till his round unravelled on the last three holes. His misery took shape at the 16th – Woods pulled his tee shot ever so slightly to find himself in the fairway bunker. On his next shot, he took too much sand and the ball ended up in the creek just off the green. Eventually, the seven time Bay Hill champion took a bogey. At the 17th, Tiger overshot the flag and lodged in the rough beyond the green. And then he compounded his situation when he saw the chip traverse past the entire green. Another bogey later, Tiger just could not believe himself when he landed in the rough to the right of the 18th to settle for a disappointing 70.

Woods though believes there is still plenty of game left and enough time to run past the field. “Well, now I’m 4 back. I was up, at one point, 1 back and right there,” before issuing a warning. “The good news is we’ve got 36 holes to go. We’ve got a long way to go. And certainly four shots can be made up.”

Just five shots separate as many as sixteen players going into the third round, making it extremely difficult to call a real favourite at this stage. John Huh proved Thursday was no fluke. The young man followed up his 67 with a solid 69 for an 8 under 136. Making it all sound simple, “Well, the key was keep your ball on the fairway and hit a green and give yourself a good chance, and I think I did really well and made a 30 footer which is great to finish the round,” said Huh. One gets the feeling that he’d be very happy to be among the top ten here at the Bay Hill.

Among the other men with possibilities are – JJ Henry (67), Ken Duke (68) and Jim Walker (69) at 6 under. Also in the thick of things are Vijay Singh and Mark Wilson, who each shot 68 to join Woods at 5 under. Seven men tied at four under in a group that included Rickie Fowler, John Rollins and Brad Fritsch. Ian Poulter, Hunter Mahan and Sergio Garcia were all at 3 under 141.

Kevin Chappell got the crowd in a tizzy when he launched a five iron down the 216 yard 14th hole to make a hole in one. But even as he held his ground to reach the clubhouse in an even par 72, that moment under the Sun was only enough to get him into the highlights package. A 79 on Thursday meant that Chappell missed the cut – set at 3 over – by some margin. If it is any consolation, he does have some illustrious company. Phil Mickelson had a disastrous round that contained three 7s including two triple bogeys – a 79 that left him 8 over 152. Brandt Snedeker, ranked four, gave up five shots in two holes as he slipped to 76 to match the total of Mickelson. Ernie Els carded a second straight 75 that left him six over and out of the weekend. KJ Choi was relatively unlucky to miss the cut by just a shot after making a 75 to add to his 73 in the first round.

Can Rose make his lead count this time around?

Can Rose make his lead count this time around?

Rose held the halfway lead ten times in his career, only twice going on to win the title. That was at the AT&T Championship in 2010 and the BMW championship the next year. As he leads the table again this weekend, Rose will be hoping that the weather stays fair as he furthers his quest for a fifth career title and the first since the WGC-Cadillac Championship last year. Haas, Huh, Woods and Singh are all in the neighbourhood and each will want to extract their pound of flesh as the weekend plays out.

Select Scores

  • -9: B Haas (US), J Rose (Eng)
  • -8: J Huh (US)
  • -6: K Duke (US), JJ Henry (US), J Walker (US)
  • -5: M Wilson (US), V Singh (Fij), T Woods (US)
  • Selected others: -3: S Garcia (Sp), I Poulter (Eng)
  • +2 : L Westwood (Eng), G McDowell (NI)
  • +6: E Els (SA)
  • +8: B Snedeker (US), P Mickelson (US)
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