Rory McIlroy struggles on Bay Hill’s devilish greens, but still in striking distance of lead

ORLANDO, Fla. – As Rory McIlroy walked off the golf course Friday evening at Bay Hill Club and Lodge, he breathed a huge sigh of relief. He was glad to be done. He had withstood another devilish day at Arnie’s Place and walked away with an even-par 72 that kept him within striking distance of the lead.

They certainly weren’t the harshest conditions he’s faced over the years at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. No, the fairways are still fairly soft, and the weather windy but warm. But the greens, well, those are a much different story.

“Those are the sort of greens you expect to see late on a Sunday, not late on a Friday,” McIlroy said.

McIlroy ranked 105th out of 120 players in the field in strokes gained: putting on Friday. He needed 30 putts to get around, and that didn’t even include the 47-foot, 10-inch birdie roll that he made from the fringe at the par-4 eighth. Coincidentally, the length of that conversion equaled the total length of putts made by McIlroy in his second round.

His longest official made putt was just 7 feet, 4 inches.

Viktor Hovland trying to ‘forget the weekend’ last year and make good Bay Hill memories

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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“I enjoy the challenge of hitting into them,” McIlroy said of these greens. “The challenge of putting on them is a little different because it gets inconsistent. The ball skids sometimes on breaking putts and doesn’t take the break, and then it does roll pretty early and then it takes the break early. So, it sort of becomes a bit of a guessing game when they get this glassy.”

Case in point: After McIlroy sped a 30-foot birdie putt some 5 feet past the cup at the par-4 15th hole, he played the skid on the right-to-left comebacker and it didn’t react how he wanted. The miss was one of two bogeys in McIlroy’s final four holes. He failed to get up and down from an awkward lie just outside of the back bunker on the par-3 17th hole, missing an 8-footer for par. The previous hole, he failed to convert a birdie from similar range.

As one can imagine, McIlroy didn’t want to think about what the putting surfaces would look like when Sunday rolled around. Glassy and firm? Yeah. Tricky? Oh, for sure. Borderline impossible? Hope not.

“It’s going to be interesting to see where they go from here, but it’s going to be a good test over the weekend,” McIlroy said. “I’m glad I got 18 holes in those conditions because the course definitely changed a lot from when I played it yesterday morning to this afternoon. I’ll be a little more prepared for it tomorrow.”

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Asked to react to the 23 second-round putts struck by Viktor Hovland, who leads McIlroy by two shots, McIlroy fired back.

“See how he does tomorrow.”

How about Tyrrell Hatton’s 22?

“See how he does tomorrow.”

Bay Hill isn’t getting any easier, and these greens aren’t getting any softer.

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