Indian golfer Anirban Lahiri carded a modest even par 72 in the first round to lie tied 43rd in the Arnold Palmer Invitational here. Rory McIlroy, who opened with a 6-under 66 last year, did so once again and shared the lead with Corey Conners, who shot a matching 66 at Bay Hill. Bryson DeChambeau, the reigning US Open champion, was a further stroke back in third place. Lahiri, who has not won since the 2015 Hero Indian Open, started from the tenth and parred his first 12 holes, even though he was unable to get inside 15 feet to give himself enough birdie chances. On the Par-5 fourth, he finally birdied after a fine second shot and a nice pitch to inside two and a half feet. It was his first birdie and only one of the day. On Par-5 sixth, he found water with his tee shot and got to the green only in five and holed it for a bogey. It left him with a day’s card of 72.
From an Asian viewpoint, Korea’s Byeong Hun An, 29, showed his fondness towards the tournament by carding a solid 4-under 68 to lie in tied fourth place after the first round. An, who has made the cut in his last five starts at Bay Hill, enjoyed three successive birdies on his homeward nine to end the day two back of co-leaders. Sungjae Im enjoyed his return to the prestigious PGA TOUR tournament with a solid 69 highlighted by an eagle.
McIlroy, a former FedExCup winner and World no. 1, is chasing his first win on the PGA TOUR since the 2019 WGC-HSBC Champions in China. After making the turn with a sluggish 35, the Northern Irishman hit five consecutive birdies on his back nine to grab a share of the lead. McIlroy has finished tied 6 or better four consecutive years at the event, including a win in 2018. He finished tied 5th last year.
No American has won the Arnold Palmer Invitational since 2015 and from the top 14 players on the leaderboard, 10 are from outside US. Si Woo Kim withdrew at the end of the first round. Asia’s other representatives had mixed luck. Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan returned a 74, while Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama and Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond carded 75s.