Charley Hoffman finds pot o' gold (for now) at Arnold Palmer

Arnold Palmer Invitational Charley Hoffman leader Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Charley Hoffman finds pot o' gold (for now) at Arnold Palmer

PGA Tour

Charley Hoffman finds pot o' gold (for now) at Arnold Palmer

ORLANDO – Left outside of the WGC-Dell Match Play bubble and wanting to come pay tribute to Arnold Palmer, Charley Hoffman joined the field at Bay Hill this week for the first time since 2013.

He’s glad he did.

Hoffman missed the cut four years ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, faltering after an opening-round 69. Not this time. Hoffman shot 6-under 66 Friday to build on an opening-round 68 and grab the outright lead entering the weekend at 10 under.

“In the schedule, it hasn’t fallen where I would like in the past,” Hoffman said. “This year, I sort of went out of my way. I wasn’t in the Match Play and then obviously honoring Arnie, it’s not a hard thing to come here and play.”

Especially when the weather is as pleasant as it was Friday, the green-clad spectators and players treated to one of those days pros have come to expect at Bay Hill this time of year following a chilly first round.

Morgan’s 10 under was on the board by early afternoon and the chase was on. Twenty-four-year-old Argentinian Emiliano Grillo gave it an admirable run and did catch up to Hoffman, albeit briefly.

The overnight leader, Grillo began his round on the 10th hole and eagled the par-5 12th. He chipped in for eagle at the par-5 16th and eventually got to 10 under with a birdie after reaching the 555-yard, par-5 sixth hole in two.

Water borders the No. 6 fairway’s left side almost in its entirety, and most players bail out on the right side and lay up. Grillo’s tee shot cut the corner of the sharp dogleg and carried over the water before settling safely in the fairway, 203 yards from the green.

Arnold Palmer’s “You must play boldly to win” quote greets players on a large display board near the first tee box, but Grillo didn’t intend to play things quite so boldly at No. 6.

“Today I was missing everything left,” Grillo said. “All the balls were starting left and going left. … I knew that I had a lot of space left (on the tee shot at No. 6, but) I was almost aiming to the bunker, which is 40 yards right of where my ball landed. So when I saw it land I was like, ‘Well, that’s fine.’ I kind of knew it was going to go over, but I didn’t think it was going to be that close.”

Grillo two-putted for birdie and a share of the lead, then missed a 15-footer for birdie and made par on No. 7. He missed his line way left off the tee again and had to lay up on the tricky par-4 eighth hole protected by water in the front of the green. He missed a 9-foot par putt there and was back alone in second, where he remains one shot back of Hoffman entering round three.

“The confidence is there. I’m one shot back of the lead and that’s not a mistake,” said Grillo, who won the 2015 Frys.com Open and left Argentina for the IMG Academy in Florida when he was 16. “I was able to hang on the back nine. Something happened. I mean, I hit it absolutely perfect off the tee yesterday and today I was not able to do so.”

Matthew Fitzpatrick is in third and two off the lead after a second-round 69 and Adam Hadwin, who picked up his first career victory last week at the Valspar, is within striking distance at 4 under.

World No. 2 Jason Day is also hanging around, but will need to make a big move Saturday now seven shots back at 3 under.

“Over the last two days I kind of got down on myself (but) I didn’t do anything too crazy. I was patient,” Day said. “I just kept on saying that it’s not going to get too crazy. I just have to slowly creep my way up. Obviously 71 is great, but I’ve got to get anything under par the next two days and see how it goes at the end of the week.”

Rory McIlroy bounced back from bogies on his first two holes and shot 71 to get to 1 over and make the cut.

“I fought a little bit of everything over the past couple days,” McIlroy said. “It’s been a little bit of a struggle, which I didn’t really anticipate coming in here. … At least I’m here for the weekend.”

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