Grieving Hoffman leads at Bay Hill

Morgan Hoffman, who learned before teeing off that his 97-year-old grandmother had died, posted a 6-under-par 66 and grabbed a one-stroke lead over Jason Kokrak, Ken Duke, John Peterson, Ian Poulter and Kevin Na after one round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Fla.

The 25-year-old Hoffman, who has never won as a pro, holed a bunker shot for an eagle on the sixth hole while finishing on the front nine, and then took sole possession of the lead with a tap-in birdie on the ninth after hitting his approach from 152 yards to within eight inches.

“It’s crazy how this game works,” said Hoffman, who has missed the cut three times in nine starts this season, in which his best finish was a tie for 17th in the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

“I’ve been really grinding hard and I missed the cut in Tampa (last week). So I worked hard on my ball-striking (the last few days) and it paid off.”

Hoffman, a pilot,  said he will fly his own plane to South Florida on Saturday for his grandmother’s memorial service, adding that family members will set the time depending on his third-round tee time.

Na, whose only victory on the PGA Tour came in the 2011 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, birdied three of the first five holes and added three more birdies on the back nine in his 67.

Poulter highlighted his bogey-free 67 with a 16-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole, and Peterson played bogey-free, getting up-and-down for par from a greenside bunker on his final hole, No. 9.

Duke, 46, who broke through for his only victory in the 2013 Travelers Championship, made a single bogey in his 67, while Kokrak made a five-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole after starting on the back nine and held the lead until making his only bogey at No. 7.

Adam Scott, who missed the cut for the first time in 58 events last week in the Valspar Championship, bounced back with a 68 and was tied for sixth with 10 others, including Brandt Snedeker, Billy Horschel, Henrik Stenson, Harris English, Keegan Bradley, Padraig Harrington and Hunter Mahan.

Top-ranked Rory McIlroy was tied for 33rd after opening with a 70.

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