A late flurry of birdies, including a stunning 71-foot putt from off the green on the final hole, lifted second-round leader Charley Hoffman into a tie with Kevin Kisner after 54 holes in the 39th edition of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.
The fast finish by the California native capped a 1-under 71, and he stood at 11-under 205, tied with Kisner, a South Carolina product, who led by as many as four strokes until Hoffman made his late run while Kisner helped by bogeying his final hole for a 4-under 68.
“Obviously, I'm going to feed off those last three holes going into [today] and sort of go from there,” said Hoffman, 40, seeking his fifth PGA TOUR win. Hoffman rebounded from a rough start, bogeying his first two holes to fall out of the lead.
“I'll be first person to tell you it's hard to win on the PGA TOUR,” Hoffman added. “Week-in and week-out you're trying to win, but to be in position at Arnie's event is a special spot. It's right up there with competing in a major championship.”
Said Kisner, 33, who has one win under his belt: “I've hit the golf ball really well, given myself a lot of opportunities, and made a lot of putts from inside of 10 feet, which that seems to be the recurring stat of the guy leading the tournament, every time we turn on the TV. So I feel really comfortable on these Bermuda greens and want to keep rolling the rock.”
Tyrell Hatton of England, seeking to become just the third player to win this event in his first appearance – after Bob Byman in 1979 and Robert Gamez in 1990 – fired a 67 and was tied for third at 8-under 208 with fellow Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick (72) and Australia’s Marc Leishman (71). Next at 209 were Canada’s Adam Hadwin, winner of last week’s Valspar Championship, and Lucas Glover. Hadwin shot 69 and Glover 72.
In the spirit of Arnie, two top-10 players made a charge Saturday. World No. 3 Rory McIlroy and No. 9 Rickie Fowler each fired 7-under 65, the low round of the tournament thus far. McIlroy moved into a tie for eighth at 6-under 210. Fowler was another shot back at 211 with a group that included the likes of Orlando resident Justin Rose, the Olympic Gold Medalist. In all there are 14 players bunched within five strokes.
“At least I've given myself a decent chance,” said McIlroy, who closed last year’s event with a 65. “If I'm four or five or six back, at least I'm in with a shot. And if I get off to a fast start, I'll be right in there. So just keep it going, I can take a lot from today.”
First-round leader Emiliano Grillo fell back after putting two shots in the water and suffering a quadruple-bogey nine at the par-5 sixth hole. His 77 left him at 4-under 212. Defending champion Jason Day also found water trouble Saturday, and ended up at even-par 216 for the tournament after a 75.