ORLANDO, Fla. – Adam Scott is making golf look easy through 36 holes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. A day after he lit up Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge with a career-low, 10-under 62, Scott fired a 68 for a tournament record-tying 36-hole total of 130 and a seven-stroke advantage over the trio of J.B. Holmes, Chesson Hadley and Francesco Molinari. Not even 8-time champion Tiger Woods led by as many at the tournament’s halfway point.
Afterwards, Scott said all the right things. He claimed that a seven-shot lead could disappear over two days. “I don’t think you can ever have a big enough lead, to be honest,” he said.
But that felt like lip service given the electric performance by the reigning Masters champion. There have been hardly any loose swings. During the second round, Scott showed great patience. One day after he wielded his putter with deadly efficiency, Scott’s long putter behaved erratically. He made a 13-footer for what he called a “scrappy par” at the first, but then missed three birdie opportunities from less than 15 feet.
“I would say I struck the ball much better than yesterday, but just didn’t quite make the putts,” he said. “But it’s tough to do that all the time around a track like this.”
Scott made his first bogey of the tournament on No. 7 when he dumped his 7-iron tee shot at the par 3 into a buried lie in the front bunker and couldn’t convert the 17-foot par putt. He was even par through his first eight holes, but continued to put on a ball-striking clinic. Scott routinely strung drives down the center of the fairway. He missed only two fairways all day and on one of those occasions he struck his approach at No. 9 to 13 feet below the hole and rolled in the uphill putt for birdie to turn in 1 under.
“It wasn’t that I was putting poorly,” said Scott, who still leads the field in strokes gained putting through two rounds. “I just had to wait for a couple to drop.”
It triggered back-to back birdies at Nos. 11 and 12. The prettiest was at the 11th when Scott’s ball from 170 yards hit only inches from the cup and stopped within 5 feet of the cup. Buoyed by back-to-back birdies at Nos. 15 and 16, Scott extended his lead to eight strokes. He missed a 6-foot par putt at the last to trim his lead to a touchdown and an extra point heading into the weekend.
“It feels very much like I was playing toward the end of last year in Australia, where I kind of picked golf courses apart by just hitting fairways and hitting greens, and just waiting for that right number to hit one close,” he said.
How dominating has Scott been so far? His seven-stroke lead equals the third-largest 36-hole lead on Tour dating to 1970. On the eve of the tournament, Scott predicted the next five years would bring his best golf. Who knew he meant starting now? And if the field didn’t have enough of an uphill battle trying to catch the runaway leader, Scott also said his flu-like symptoms had improved and he’s only bothered by a sore throat now.
“Hopefully the worst is behind,” he said. “But as far as energy goes I’m 100 percent better.”
It is his tournament to lose. Can he push ahead and runaway and hide on moving day?
“I think I’ve got to just try and start again tomorrow. With this weather the course is going to play tricky again. I saw some of the pins out there that are tucked away and the greens definitely firmed up a little this afternoon. If it stays like this it will be firmer again,” he said. “So this course will really start to bare its teeth.”
So far, Scott has taken the bite out of Bay Hill.