ORLANDO, Fla. –- Justin Rose took a two-shot lead after the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational while Tiger Woods is lurking and Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker are struggling.
Here’s 5 Things you need to know from the first round at Bay Hill:
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1. STRONG START: Tiger Woods has won three of his last four starts at Bay Hill. A win this week would allow him to return to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time since his personal scandal. Woods is in good position after one round here. He shot 3-under 69 and is four behind Justin Rose.
“I scored well,” Woods said. “I certainly didn’t play my best, but I got around and made a few good saves out there. … I didn’t drive it well, didn’t hit my irons well and didn’t control my distances well or my trajectory. Other than that, it was good.”
Woods hit 8 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens playing in Thursday morning’s cold, windy conditions.
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2. TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER: Justin Rose’s 65 gave him the first-round lead. Rose, No. 5 in the Official World Golf Ranking, had six birdies and an eagle at the par-5 16th hole. The Orlando resident has finished in the top 10 in his past two starts, both in Florida. He was T-4 at the Honda Classic and T-8 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.
Rose made 10 putts longer than 6 feet and seven longer than 9 feet. All told, he made 127 feet of putts and used his putter only 25 times.
“That’s as good of a putting round as I’ve had in a long time,” he said. “Today is the first day it showed up the way we’ve wanted.”
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3. HE’S BACK: The Arnold Palmer Invitational’s first round was Brandt Snedeker’s first since his victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He shot 76, which included a triple-bogey at the par-3 17th after his tee shot plugged in the hazard, but was optimistic after his round. Snedeker made just two birdies Thursday. He hit 8 of 14 fairways and 10 of 18 greens.
“I actually felt really good,” Snedeker said. “I’m actually encouraged despite the fact that I shot 4 over. The iron game is not where I want it to be. That’s what killed me today. Around here, if you don’t do that well, you’re going to pay the price.”
Snedeker still leads the FedEx Cup points list in spite of his prolonged absence. He finished 2-2-1 in his three starts before his injury.
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4. KNOCKING OFF THE RUST: Phil Mickelson, the 1997 champion here, also shot over par, turning in a 1-over 73 after hitting just 10 greens in regulation. He had an eagle at the par-5 16th and four birdies, but also made seven bogeys. He three-putted the final two holes to shoot 73.
“I hit it terrible today,” he said. “I felt terrible with swinging the club. I didn’t know which way I was going to miss it.
“I find when I take a week off I come out like I did today, just mentally not sharp, and the more I play, the sharper I get, and usually the second or third tournament is when I play my best.”
Mickelson finished third in his last start, the WGC-Cadillac Championship. He will play next week’s Shell Houston Open. That event, which replicates Augusta’s conditions at Redstone Golf Club, usually is held the week before the Masters, but now the Valero Texas Open will be played the week before Augusta. Mickelson is skipping that event.
“Having a windy, tight course isn’t really conducive to getting ready for Augusta, and that makes it difficult for me personally,” Mickelson said. “I like to have a tournament before a major, because a major’s penalty for a miss is so severe, you’ve got to be sharp on each shot right from the gate.”
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5. SHORT SHOTS: John Huh, the 2012 PGA Tour rookie of the year, is in second place after shooting 67. Huh has missed four of his past five cuts; the only exception is the WGC-Cadillac Championship, which doesn’t have a cut. Huh finished 28th there. John Rollins and Brad Fritsch both shot 68 and are in third place. . . . Sean O’Hair, the 2009 runner-up here, shot 69 and is in fifth place. O’Hair is playing on a sponsor exemption. . . . Graeme McDowell shot 72 in the first round. He was runner-up at this event last year and had finished in the top-10 in his past three PGA Tour starts. . . . The two amateurs in the field struggled Thursday. U.S. Amateur champion Steven Fox shot 78, while Peter Williamson fired 83. . . . Webb Simpson shot 80.