Conners Has 1-Shot Lead Over Laird in API

Corey Conners of Canada is in the lead thanks to an eagle for the second straight day.

The 29-year-old Conners, who shared the first-round lead with Rory McIlroy, sank a 24-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole while posting a 3-under-par 69 to take a one-stroke lead over Martin Laird of Scotland in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Fla.

In round one, Conners holed a six-foot eagle putt at No. 16.

“It was really solid today,” said Conners, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2019 Valero Texas Open. “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. It’s always fun to make an eagle.

“When I was a junior golfer I actually came (to Bay Hill) and watched a few times. I always loved the place, such great condition, visually like the golf course a lot off the tee. You got to be really precise with your shots.”

Conners, who has three top-10 finishes this season but is coming off a missed cut in the Genesis Invitational two weeks ago, made his only bogey at No. 2 and added two birdies while recording a 36-hole total of 9-under 135.

Laird, who won the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational, sank a 14-foot eagle putt at No. 12 to go with four birdies and a bogey in his 67.

“I obviously like it here and it’s always nice to come back because of the memories from 10 years ago,” said Laird, who claimed the last of his four PGA Tour victories in October at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. “The course fits my eye with a lot of left-to-right tee shots, especially on the back nine, and the greens are firm, which is good for me because of my high ball flight.

“I had been struggling for a few tournaments, but I had a nice second round in L.A., although I still missed the cut because of a bad first round. But my game is better than it was earlier and after good start I have to keep it going the next two rounds and see what happens.”

The eighth-ranked McIlroy, the 2018 API champion, followed his opening 66 with a 71 and is two shots back in a tie for third with Viktor Hovland of Norway, who made three late birdies in a 68, and Lanto Griffin, who was tied for the lead before making a bogey at No. 8 while finishing his 68 on the front nine.

Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis made two birdies down the stretch to salvage a 71 and is one more down in solo sixth, while Justin Rose of England shot 68 and is four strokes behind in a tie for seventh with Jordan Spieth and Paul Casey of England, who both had 69s, and Sungjae Im of South Korea, who came in at 70.

Sixth-ranked Tyrrell Hatton of England, the defending champion, bounced back from an opening 77 by making four straight birdies down the stretch and is tied for 38th after a 67, while ninth-ranked Patrick Reed made a late bogey in his 74 to miss the cut by one stroke.

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