Rory McIlroy optimistic of successful Arnold Palmer Invitational title defence


Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland looks on from the 15th tee during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He opened his round with three bogeys in the first four holes and a double bogey on the par-5 6th hole. He made a decision to put in a new 4-iron, which he used to hit his second shot into 18 feet for eagle on the par-5 sixth.

Rafa Cabrera Bello nearly aced the second hole en route to the early lead in the first round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida on Thursday. "I just made a decision to leave it in out of nowhere, and sure enough it hit the flag right in the middle and went in".

The 48-year-old five-time Major victor rallied over the closing holes however, making three more birdies including a birdie at the last to stay in touch with the leaders.

Mickelson's double-bogey came at the expense of one of the more daring shots of the day as the five-time major victor attempted a right-handed effort behind a net.

The double-bogey included a freaky attempted recovery shot, with the left-handed Mickelson switching to a right-handed stance in a failed attempt to play his way out of trouble when his tee-shot ended up nestled against a fence alongside the left fairway. "Today I hit many good shots", he said. "If I hit fairways over the next two rounds than I still feel like I have a good chance". The group another shot back included Masters champions Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson, and Eddie Pepperell, who is playing a regular PGA Tour event for the first time and got caught with his trousers up.

Jason Day is in doubt for the Players Championship next week after injuring his back and withdrawing after just six holes of the of the Arnold Palmer invitational in Florida.

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"I think the couple three-putts kind of skews things a bit", he said.

"I had come off a bogey at one, so wasn't really happy on the (second) tee", Cabrera Bello told Golf Channel after opening a two-shot lead over American Keegan Bradley with half the field back in the clubhouse.

"Any time you can shoot under par on this golf course, the rough is up, the greens are going to get tougher and tougher", Watson said after shooting 68.

"I said to Matty, "Let's birdie the two par-5s, get two more and try shoot even".

The 37-year-old also reverted to the same make of putter with which he won his last tournament - the 2016 Barbasol Championship on the PGA Tour.