ORLANDO, Fla. – Tyrrell Hatton lost his swing on his back nine without losing his head, a small victory. He battled through a tough test at Bay Hill on Friday and was only surprised by what he saw when he finished.
His tidy short game was strong enough to carry him into a share of the lead with Sung Kang going into the weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“I just didn't have a clue where it was going,” Hatton said after a 3-under 69 in a wind that came out of the opposite direction. “Just happy to get in the clubhouse with no damage done, really.”
Kang birdied four of his last seven holes for a 68.
Rory McIlroy made a mess of No. 8 and felt he made Bay Hill harder than it was — and it was plenty difficult — for a 73 that still left him within two shots of the lead.
Matt Every thought it was awesome that his 65 in the opening round was 20 shots better than his previous round on the PGA Tour. Not so awesome was being 18 shots higher the next day, an 83 that allowed him to join the wrong list in PGA Tour annals by going from the 18-hole lead to the weekend off.
He missed the cut by one shot.
“I really didn't see this coming, to be honest,” said Every, who is rarely anything but honest. “But it happens. It kind of happens to me quite a bit.”
His last three rounds on the PGA Tour dating to a week ago at the Honda Classic: 85-65-83. He was he first player since Camilo Villegas in the 2013 Honda Classic to go from the first-round lead to a missed cut.
Talor Gooch fared a little better. He followed a 67 with an 80 and made the cut on the number.
Phil Mickelson, who opened with a 77, drilled a 5-iron from 239 yards away over the water to 7 feet for an eagle on the par-5 sixth to get on the cut number with three holes to play. He finished with a double bogey and missed the cut for the fourth time this year.
It's the first time in 25 years Mickelson has missed four cuts before the Masters.
“I thought it was a really hard golf course, and I enjoyed the challenge of trying to play on these type of conditions,” Mickelson said. “And I'm a little frustrated that I haven't gotten off to the start his year I would like. I'm not discouraged. I don't feel like I'm that far off.”
Henrik Stenson also opened with a 77. He also battled back to give himself a chance to make the cut. And he also took double bogey on his final hole to miss the cut for only the second time in 12 appearances at Bay Hill.
The average score was 74.08, the highest at Bay Hill since the opening round of 2011.
And it left a 69-man field for the weekend that is up for grabs.
Hatton and Kang were at 7-under 137, the highest score to lead at Bay Hill in 10 years.
Danny Lee had the low round of the day, a 67, that left him one shot behind.
McIlroy, Honda Classic winner Sungjae Im (69) and Harris English (70) two strokes behind at 5 under. Another shot back was a group that included Patrick Reed, who had another 70 in his bid to win his second straight tournament.
Hatton is making up for lost time from an accident in the oddest of places. He was walking in from the Par 3 Tournament at the Masters three years ago when it was halted by storms and slipped on pine straw, injuring his right wrist as he braced for the fall. He tried cortisone shots to buy time, and he finally felt the only option was surgery after the European Tour ended its season last November.
The Englishman was out longer than he expected, but he returned in Mexico City by tying for sixth in the World Golf Championships, and now he has a share of the 36-hole lead at Bay Hill.
McIlroy was happy to still be in range.
His round looked as though it might come undone when he got caught up in the trees to the right of the eighth fairway and made double bogey, this after a three-putt bogey from long range on the par-3 seventh.
He birdied his next hole, limited the mistakes to only one bogey on the back nine and wound up in good shape.
“It was a grind. I think I made it more of a grind than I needed to,” McIlroy said. “Conditions were tricky, greens are getting firm, wind was out of a different direction today, so that made things a little interesting, too. ... I'm still right there in the golf tournament.”