Corey Conners grabs one-shot lead at Bay Hill

Mar 5, 2021; Orlando, Florida, USA; Corey Conners hits his drive on the eighth hole during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament at Bay Hill Club & Lodge. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Canada’s Corey Conners is alone atop the leaderboard at the midway point of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.

Conners, who shared the first-round lead with Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, fired a 3-under-par 69 on Friday at Bay Hill Club & Lodge to sit at 9-under 135. He is one stroke ahead of Scotland’s Martin Laird, who shot a 67 on Friday.

McIlroy (second-round 71), Norway’s Viktor Hovland (68) and Lanto Griffin (68) are tied for third at 7 under.

Bryson DeChambeau (71) holds sixth place at 6 under, and Jordan Spieth (69), England’s Paul Casey (69) and Justin Rose (68) and South Korea’s Sungjae Im (70) share seventh place at 5 under.

The only other time Conners was on top following the first two rounds of a PGA Tour event was the 2018 Valspar Championship, in which he finished tied for 16th. Conners has one tour victory in 100 events before this week, at the 2019 Valero Texas Open.

For the second day in a row, Conners eagled the par-5 16th hole. He reached the green in two shots Friday, then sank a 24-foot putt. The remainder of his round featured two birdies and one bogey.

“It was really solid today,” Conners said. “I didn’t hit as many shots close to the hole as I did yesterday, to give myself as many birdie chances, but I was really happy with how I grinded out a bunch of pars today.

“I was in some tricky spots and, yeah, overall really solid day and nice to finish off with a strong back nine.”

McIlroy’s up-and-down round included four birdies (three of them on par-5 holes) and two bogeys.

“Today was a bit more of a battle, but (I) stayed patient,” said McIlroy, who won at Bay Hill in 2018. “I picked off three of the par-5s, which is good around here. When I put it in trouble I got it out of trouble. …

“Around here, you don’t need to do anything special, you just need to be really solid, limit your mistakes. I feel like it was a day out there today that I sort of did that. Some good up-and-downs on the front nine. It could have been the round that I could have shot 74 or 75, I got in with 71 and pretty happy with that.”

Among the players who missed the cut, which included 73 players at 2 over par or better, were Patrick Reed (3 over), Billy Horschel (5 over) and Australia’s Marc Leishman (5 over).

–Field Level Media