Viktor Hovland shot a 6-under-66 round and was the lowest round of the day. He is now off to a great start at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He knows what to expect at Bay Hill this weekend.

Rory McIlroy was able to get a sneak peek.

Hovland was on Friday morning. He set the target for a warm day with increasing winds. He made seven birdies and some key pars saves in the second round. He finished at 9-under 135.

McIlroy was playing in the afternoon. He was poised for him to catch him, but his putter failed him on greens that were becoming slippery and crisp. McIlroy tied for first with a par putt of 4 feet, and McIlroy putts from 8 to 9 feet on the next two holes. He also missed birdie chances from 15 feet.

He was also two behind Bay Hill winner Tyrrell Hartton (68), and Talor Gooch (68), both of whom won their first PGA Tour titles in the last official event last year.

Hovland was just two shots off the lead heading into last year’s weekend. He closed with rounds of 77/78 and ended up 15 shots behind.

He said, “I sort of forget the weekend here last summer.” “I played very well the first few day, very similar to how this year. It just got harder and harder each day. Then it began blowing. After a few bad swings, I was in some bad spots and didn’t take my medication.

McIlroy started with a 65 on Thursday morning in slightly more challenging conditions. It didn’t take him long to notice how much the course had changed. McIlroy bogeyed the first hole, but he did well to recover with three birdies.

Then it was a diet consisting of pars until the pars dried up. He said that it felt worse than seven shots.

McIlroy stated that these greens are what you would expect to see on Sundays, and not on Fridays. It will be interesting to see what they do from here, but it will be a tough test over the weekend. It was a great 18-hole round, and the course has changed significantly from yesterday morning.

“I’ll be a bit more prepared for tomorrow.”

Hatton was unsure what to think about Hatton’s putts, other than the fact that he putted very well. This was evident in his 22 putts. He was victorious in the PGA Tour’s last event two years ago, before the COVID-19 epidemic that decimated golf for three months. This is about the only thing that feels right in his game.

Hatton stated, “I am not happy with the way I have hit the golf ball these last few days.” “I find the score to be quite flattering. “I’ve putted very well, which is why my score is so high, but I know I can’t keep it this bad with it being playing harder this weekend.

“I hope I can find a good golf swing and that the putt stays up this weekend.

Gooch didn’t drop a shot until his final hole. It was still a great performance considering how little time he had to play. He putted a 40-foot eagle putt on the par-5 16th. He was never out of position until he went from thick rough right to the ninth fairway and reached the front bunker. This left him nearly 40 yards away from the back pin.

Bay Hill was so difficult that Jon Rahm couldn’t get his groove with the putter. He was just one shot from the top 10. He was seventh behind with a 70.

The cut was at 3 over 147, the sixth consecutive year that it was above par.

Patrick Reed missed the cut by one shot. This was his third consecutive tournament that he had not made it. Reed has not had this happen since 2017. Seven players scored 80 or more.

Hovland was not concerned about such things. He was especially good on the back nine, where he made a 25-foot birdie putt, then two-putted for birdie, on the 16th. Then, he smashed a 5-iron from 220 yards to 10 feet on Par-3 17th, for a third consecutive birdie.

McIlroy had 30 putts. He was informed that Hovland only needed 23 putts and Hatton only 22, respectively. McIlroy answered both questions the same, even though he knew that all of them would be late.

“See what he does tomorrow.”

DIVOTS: The field of The Players Championship was announced Friday. Phil Mickelson will not be in the field for his first appearance since 2003. Mickelson said he needed to rest after making disparaging remarks about the PGA Tour and a Saudi-funded league. The Players will also be without Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, as well as Harris English, who are all recovering from injuries.