Australia Day at Arnold Palmer Invitational
You could have easily been mistaken that the St. Patrick’s Day celebration on the opening day of the 2016 Arnold Palmer Invitational had been renamed ‘Australia Day’.
While there was green-coloured attire all about Bay Hill, including nearly every competitor getting in on the St. Patrick’s Day act, the first day of the $US 6.2m event clearly belonged to Australian-born golfers.
Adam Scott and Marc Leishman finished within minutes of each other, and among five players at lunch to be leading on five under par.
However it was around 5pm local time when Queensland’s Jason Day broke the log-jam atop of the board to shoot a six under par 66.
So it was Australia – first and two Australians second.
Scott set about making it three PGA Tour counting victories in a row and he also seeks to make amends for letting slip victory in 2014 as the then defending Masters Champion.
The current World No. 9 pared his opening six holes but then stamped his presence with birdies at his eighth and ninth holes ahead of birdies at his 13th and then the last.
However the purist Scott is, he was not totally happy following his round.
“There was some scrambling going on as I wasn’t really sharp today but I got away with it, probably because the wind was down and stuff like that,” he said.
“I couldn’t get into too much trouble but then I managed myself well. Made some good putts to keep whatever momentum I had going and it added up to a good score.”
Leishman was also somewhat slow to join in the celebrations with three straight pars to start his round ahead of a first birdie at the sixth before the reigning Nedbank Challenge champ eventually stamping his presence to go to five under par with birdies at 16 and 17.
“It was a good day and pretty stress-free, actually,” he said.
“So a stress-free day and nice to play that way and roll some putts in.
“However I think you’re going to have to keep doing what you’re doing. Maybe not three more of those but that will certainly take care of it, 20-under would do it. The greens are so perfect that you can roll them up there.
“But as I mentioned, I felt comfortable today. Obviously, you know, it’s a funny game and can change very quickly. I keep doing what I’m doing, you know, hopefully I can have three more of those and see where we end up.”
However it was Day who stole the first day honours and with the World No. 3 actually bogeying his second hole and then, after moving to three under par, doubling the ninth hole to fall back to one under par.
But then Day played the inward half in five under par with birdies at 12, 13 and 15 before the highlight of his round when he eagled the par five 16th to move to six under and then end with a pair of pars.
” It was nice. I mean I drove it pretty good starting out my round and then I was playing pretty nicely actually, birdieing 8 and going on to the 9th hole and hooked one out of bounds,” he said.
“That wasn’t too good. Little bit of a surprise there. Being in that kind of position before where pop-up when you’re playing great. That’s the moments where you just got to be mentally tough and mentally strong to be able to, you know, forget about that stuff because early on in the season I probably wouldn’t have forgot about it as easy as I did today.
“It would have probably hurt my round. Fortunately today I got on to it and got on to 10 and started playing good again. But, very, very pleased with how the round went.”
And with the Masters now less than a month away, Day was quizzed if he felt there was any urgency to get a first victory under his belt before taking to the ‘Cathedral in the Pines’.
“It hasn’t been the greatest start this year and everyone knows that,” he said.
“Everyone can see that especially from if you’re a top ranked player in the world you’re expecting
to go play well and everyone is expecting you to play well. There was no sense of urgency at all for me, really.
“I didn’t try and tell myself that. I just kept on saying, “Just make sure you stay patient and things will happen, it will happen.” I just got to make your sure I get the reps under my belt and hope it will work.
“This is one good round, one good round in the right direction and that’s something I just have to build on and if I can build on that that would be great especially with obviously the upcoming.”
So why March 17th will always be celebrated as St. Patrick’s Day, the first day of the 2016 Arnold Palmer Invitational will be remembered as ‘Australia’s Day’.