Morgan Hoffmann is moving so fast, his playing partner decided to just try to stay in his jet stream on Friday.
Forget the score and the other 118 players, Danny Lee imagined he and Hoffmann were in a singles match at the
"It helped me a lot," Lee said. "I beat him by a stroke, so I'm happy."
Just trying to keep up with Hoffman is not bad strategy this week. The problem is that only Lee was able to do it Friday.
He shot a tournament-best 64. Hoffman countered with a 65 to finish with a three-shot lead.
"Must be the yellow pants," Lee joked.
Both players took a fashion risk and sported banana-colored slacks around Bay Hill, which all but waved a white flag under a birdie barrage. The cut was a record 2-under par as pros took advantage of near-perfect scoring conditions.
"There are a lot of birdies out there," said
Hoffmann had nine of them to finish 13-under par. Defending champion Matt Every (silver pants),
"I saw Morgan Hoffmann play really well this morning," English said. "I knew I had a lot of ground to make up."
He actually lost a stroke, but that qualifies as reason for hope given how Hoffmann has been sizzling. After an opening-round 66, he bogeyed the first hole Friday. Then he got to No. 3 and birdied six of the next seven holes.
Among those trying to keep up were No. 1-ranked
"Overall, a good day," McIlroy said. "Gets me back into the tournament."
The storyline going into the weekend is simple: Can Hoffmann hold on?
The 25-year-old has never won a
Hoffmann had been trying to hit straight shots in tournaments, but he decided to go back to hitting a cut. For those keeping track of such things at home, that means the ball fades slightly to the right.
Whatever the direction, it's working.
"I felt great out there," Hoffmann said.
So did Every, finally. He has only two top-25 finishes since winning last year at Bay Hill. But like Hoffmann, he's been toiling on his game and felt the payoff was coming.
"I've known for a while I'm on the right path," Every said. "I think it's easier to enjoy the struggle when you know there are good things at the end of it."
McIlroy has to loom large in Hoffmann's rear-view mirror, but so does Stenson. The No. 3 player in the world rankings birdied the final four holes Friday. The charge was highlighted by a 42-foot birdie putt on No. 17.
"It's a huge bonus to make one of those," Stenson said. "I was putting lovely all day."
And to think players were fretting over the spotty greens before the tournament began. The grass is bare in spots but putts are rolling nicely enough.
"No complaints," Stenson said.
Now it's largely a question of whether Hoffmann can keep rolling.
"My caddie and I are having fun out there," he said. "We have a nice confidence and flow going, so hopefully we can carry it through the weekend."