5 Things: Bay Hill more accessible on Day 2

K.J. Choi during Round 2 at Bay Hill.

K.J. Choi during Round 2 at Bay Hill.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Bay Hill was calm and manageable during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. After a first-round scoring average of 74.733, the second round was on the tame side, at 72.297. There were 21 rounds in the 60s on Friday versus only three on Thursday.

Tiger Woods was one of those in the 60s. He shot 68 and moved into contention, six shots off the lead of Martin Laird.

Here’s what else you need to know from Bay Hill:

1.) First time for everything. Scotland’s Martin Laird has never led after 36 holes on the PGA Tour, which makes his one-shot lead over Spencer Levin and K.J. Choi a historic first for the man from Glasgow.

You may remember Laird losing in a playoff to Matt Kuchar at The Barclays last year, but he has been much more proficient than that. Laird has three top 10s this season: a third at the Waste Management in Phoenix, a 10th at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and a third last week at the Transitions Championship.

In his last 10 rounds, Laird’s scoring average is 68.9, and he has only one round over par in that stretch.

• • •

2.) No place like home. Charles Howell III needs a victory to make his hometown tournament: The Masters. Not since 2008 has Howell walked the hallowed grounds, and the desperation to make it back may be creeping into his game.

“It’s been getting better,” Howell said after a second-round 65, his lowest round in 2011. “I’ve had a bunch of finishes between 10th and 13th, 14th; I haven’t really had a great finish. It’s a funny game. All of a sudden I make a putt or two from 20-25 feet and all is right in the world again.”

Three shots off of Laird’s lead, Howell has little success to draw upon at Bay Hill, with his best finish an eighth in 2005. It’s his only top 10 in 10 starts. What’s more, Howell has never shot a round in the 60s on the weekend at Bay Hill.

• • •

3.) Go ahead and ruin a perfect pairing. When Chris Couch finished bogey-double bogey, he fell out of the top 10 and caused a change in the dream pairing of Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods.

Instead, Woods is paired with Jason Dufner, a player with whom he has never been paired, and Garcia is paired with David Toms. Oh, what a pairing it could have been if not for Couch’s misstep.

• • •

4.) In case you’re counting. Five of the past champions in this year’s field missed the cut: Tim Herron, Robert Gamez, Andy Bean, Andrew Magee and Kenny Perry. Perry withdrew on Thursday after a first-round 79, citing hip and knee issues.

On a positive note, 2006 champion Rod Pampling made the cut in his third consecutive event and stands T-42, with Phil Mickelson. Lefty opened with a 70 and then ballooned to a 75 on Friday.

• • •

5.) Bring the Pride back. Dicky Pride seemed well on his way to missing the cut after shooting a 77 in the afternoon winds on Thursday, but thought he was hitting the ball well. He was right, carding a 66 on Friday. But it could have been so much better.

Pride finished with two bogeys down the stretch, changing a great round to a pretty good round.

“Yesterday was really difficult and I hung in there and then I obviously could have done a better job,” Pride said of Thursday’s first round. “But I didn’t give up and I didn’t get mad and I just took it for what it was – a really tough day and a couple missed shots.”

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