Lemonade and iced tea flowed in abundance on Thursday as the Arnold Palmer Invitational kicked off at Bay Hill. Rafael Cabrera Bello leads by two shots after an opening round of 65 with Keegan Bradley close behind. Thirty-two players shot 70 or better on Thursday and will look to make a run at the leader. Arnold Palmer Invitational Leaderboard
Rafa has been a very consistent figure in the world of golf over the last few seasons. His week got off to a hot start with four birdies in his first six holes and led to eight birdies on the day. He led the field in strokes gained approach and added a few on the greens.
Cabrera Bello has not done anything too flashy yet in 2019, but he has put together a solid start to the year. Four of his first five events have been top 25 finishes with his best result being a T-11 in Abu Dhabi. He has floated between 20 and 30 in the world rankings over the past three seasons but has just one win since 2012. RCB is clearly in solid form and is looking for some crystal as we head into the meat of the golf year.
The flinchy man himself is the closest chaser to RCB after opening with 67. He cruised to a fairly stress-free round that included 10/14 fairways and 13/18 greens. Keegan Bradley has had a resurgence over the last year after falling outside the top 100 in the world in 2016. His win at last year’s BMW Championship was his first since 2012, but he has found himself in contention a few times already this season. He is coming off his best finish of the year after he finished T-10 at the WGC Mexico in February.
Other Leaderboard Notes
Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Rodgers, Billy Horschel, and Graeme McDowell all find themselves three shots off the pace. Phil had the moment of the day after he tried to hit a shot out of some mesh fencing but was still able to fight for a 68.
The Ryder Cup duo of Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood each fired a first-round 69 (nice). Franky has taken a very light start to the year as this is only his third event but seems to be picking up where he left off in 2018.
Jhonny Vegas led after the first round of the Honda Classic last week and finds himself in the mix yet again. He currently sits T-8, four shots back of RCB.
Adri Arnaus and Justin Walters find themselves tied for the first round lead on the European Tour after opening with 67s. Arnaus is an up-and-coming Spaniard who has three professional wins in his first two seasons. The 24-year-old has already risen inside the top 150 in the world so expect to see his name more in the future. Richie Ramsay, George Coetzee, and Nicolas Colsaerts are amongst the group one shot back. Leaderboard
Jason Day withdrew after six holes on Thursday with a back injury. This is the ninth withdrawal of his career, giving him the highest withdraw rate of any player with 200 career starts (h/t Joel Beall)
Two hole-in-ones were made on the 7th hole on Thursday. Francesco Molinari made the first and then D.A. Points accidentally knocked one in too. Video
Phil went righty on Thursday… it didn’t go well.
Apparently the Tour decided THE PLAYERS Championship needed theme music.
The Spring Steam Shovel
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Shotgun Start: The Players gets a theme song and Eamon Lynch joins from Bay Hill
A punchy Andy and Brendan take you into the weekend with an avalanche of informative segments, some more useful than others. They start with a quick scan of the early action from Bay Hill, where Cam Champ and Andrew Landry, the rules renegade from Wednesday’s episode, posted big numbers. Andy also attempts an impression of Carson Daly, who has popped up in Orlando and hijacked some of the week so far. Then we get to the little matter of The Players theme music and ponder the cost of this project — was it more or less than a Web Tour purse? Fan Vote Friday Jr. takes us down the winding road of Rod Perry’s North Florida PGA achievements, Viktor Hovland’s bland hobbies, and something called BAW golf.
Eamon Lynch then graces us with his presence and discusses some early storylines from on the ground at Bay Hill, the golf and personal life of Arnold Palmer, the reduction of player access on the PGA Tour, Rory’s current state, and he defends the idea of The Players as a major. Eamon is one of the most insightful and quick-witted mouths in golf and this interview corroborated that. Flashback Friday hits on Bubba’s allergies and a fascinating gripe from a former Bay Hill champion (and a call to action to take up his cause). Then we wrap with a Masters fact of the day that focuses on the rules drama from Arnold Palmer’s first green jacket that would have caused golf Twitter to self-destruct in modern times. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher or Spotify