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Mar 20, 2015 3:42 PM

Morgan Hoffmann extends his lead at Bay Hill with 9 birdies

The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Equipped with his first PGA Tour lead in 67 starts, Morgan Hoffmann played Friday like he wanted to keep it.

Hoffman made nine birdies for a 7-under 65 and finished the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a three-shot lead over defending champion Matt Every. With the greens tougher in the afternoon it was unlikely Hoffmann would be caught.

"I'm trying to birdie every hole out there, so it was good," Hoffmann said. "Just hitting great putts and good shots into the greens really helps. It's nice to hit some greens for a change. This year hasn't been that great, and it's a good change."

Hoffman ran off six birdies on the front nine, including four in a row, and he finished with a 6-iron out of the rough and over the water the ball landed just four paces onto the green for a par that put him at 13-under 131. That's one short of the 36-hole record last matched a year ago by Adam Scott.

He wasn't the only one who ran off a big stretch of birdies.

Rory McIlroy, one night after dinner with the tournament host, finally got on track with five straight birdies in his debut at Bay Hill. McIlroy had a 66, his first sub-70 round in three PGA Tour starts this year, and was five shots behind.

He dropped a shot on No. 8 from the bunker, and had to save par from just off the ninth green to end his round.

"It would be nice to finish the round off a little better, but still a good score and sets me up well for the weekend," McIlroy said. "I think each and every day I'm feeling a little more comfortable, especially on the greens. Obviously, we played in the morning so we got the best of the greens, and it's easier to trust the lines you pick for yourself. But happy with how I putted today, and putt like that over the weekend, I'll have a chance."

A lot of that depends on Hoffmann, who is coming off a pair of 12-hour range sessions this weekend to try to rely on a slight fade.

Every has only one top 10 since he won at Bay Hill a year ago, and he has not finished in the top 25 in his last 17 tournaments. But he is confident he is headed in the right direction with his swing, and it showed for two days. He ran off four straight birdies at the end of his round for a 66 and was at 134.

"I'm really excited to play golf because I know I have good stuff coming really, really soon," Every said. "And I said before, you can lie to yourself. I've done it before all the time where I think I can win at the start of weeks. It's like probably how Rory feels every week."

Ben Martin had a 67 and was at 9-under 135. McIlroy was in a group at 136 that included Danny Lee, the former U.S. Amateur who played alongside Hoffmann.

"Today I just had a mindset of playing match play with Morgan, which helped me a lot," Lee said. "And I beat him by one today, so I'm happy."

Lee had a 64, the low score of the tournament, though he remained five shots behind.

McIlroy, playing in Palmer's tournament for the first time, had dinner with the King on Thursday night after his opening round (and a drug test). They chatted more about commercial possibilities and old-time golf stories than McIlroy's bid to win the Masters and complete the career Grand Slam.

Palmer also insisted the 25-year-old McIlroy have a banana split.

"I'll be going to the gym this afternoon," McIlroy said. "It was fantastic, it really was. He's telling stories of the old days and talking about a few of the things he's done more from a commercial standpoint, the drink and golf courses and all this sort of stuff stuff that I could potentially be getting into in the future."

He said Palmer also told him how close he was to his father.

"It was just great to be in his presence, and great to be in his company, and I had a good time," McIlroy said.


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