2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational leaderboard, scores: Mickelson, Watson among contenders after Round 1
Even without Tiger Woods in attendance, the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational is delivering through the first day of play. Rafa Cabrera Bello leads at 7 under, but the leaderboard behind him is an amalgamation of young studs looking for their first, current stars and seasoned vets looking to add another to the list.
Let’s take a look at everything that went down on Thursday at Bay Hill.
First place — Rafa Cabrera Bello (-7): Cabrera Bello’s 65 on Thursday was about eight strokes better than the field average, which is roughly the same as Ryan Palmer’s 63 from the final round of the Honda Classic last week (although that one got a lot more pub). Cabrera Bello led the field in strokes gained on approach shots, and it’s easy to see why. He’s still looking for win No. 1 on the PGA Tour.
Last place — Matt Every (+11): It was a tough day for the two-time champion of this tournament. He went out in 40, and then it somehow got worse from there. Every, who started on the 10th hole, came home in 43 on the front side of the course (his back nine) and made eight bogeys and two doubles over the course of the round.
Other contenders — Keegan Bradley (-5), Phil Mickelson (-4), Bubba Watson (-4), Billy Horschel (-4), Tommy Fleetwood (-3): Bring me all of the ball-strikers. Mickelson is showing out at a place he hasn’t played since 2013, which is mildly surprising. It’s not surprising, though, that at a course where Jason Day, Marc Leishman and Rory McIlroy are your last three winners, guys like Fleetwood (elite ball-striker) and Watson (elite ball-striker) are delivering. Lurking just beyond this crew are Patrick Reed (-2) and Jimmy Walker (-2).
Who had a great day? Keegan Bradley’s bogey-free 67 was the second-best round on the course on Thursday. Raise your hand if you knew how well he’s been playing at this tournament over the last five years.
Who had a lousy day? Rory McIlroy had a lousy day for him, especially considering how he’s been playing (four straight top fives) and how he played here last year (the champ by three). He saved it a little at the end with two birdies and a birdie lip-out on the last hole, but an even-par 72 puts him at T50 after Day 1, just inside the cut line.
Stat of the day: This one is interesting, and if it holds true, it would eliminate some of the biggest names in the field.
Shot of the day: As badly as I wanted to use the Mickelson off-the-net look (see below), I have to go with my main man D.A. Points acting like he’d just hit one off the planet only to see it find the bottom of the cup. It was one of two aces on the seventh hole on Thursday (Francesco Molinari had the other one).
One thing I loved: Phil Mickelson trying to go over the top of a fence from the right side. It was amazing. He shot a 68 despite making double on this hole.
Quote of the day: “I hit it solid … so I actually thought it was going to get on the green.” -Phil Mickelson on that shot you just saw above. He was asked how much golf he’s played right-handed and responded, “Enough to do better than that.”
What to watch on Day 2: Can Justin Rose (-1), Rory McIlroy (E), Brooks Koepka (+2) or Bryson DeChambeau (+3) make a run toward the top of the leaderboard? Those are your top four ranked players in the field and none fared all that well on Thursday (although Rose and McIlroy both beat the field average of 73).