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Rose Starts out Hot at Arnold Palmer Invitational
Playing in the marquee threesome with defending champion Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, Justin Rose outshone his illustrious compatriots in the opening round of the $6.2 million Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando.
The 32-year-old Englishman fired a 7-under 65 to take a two-stroke lead over John Huh. Starting on the 10th tee, Rose posted two birdies, an eagle on the par-5 16th (his seventh hole) and a bogey to make the turn in 3-under 33. Rose then reeled off four straight birdies - on the fourth through seventh (his 13th through 16th) - for a 4-under 32 on his home half.
Rose needed only 25 putts Thursday, and made all of his strokes on the short grass from 15 feet on in. "That's been the error of my game since June last year," Rose told PGATour.com of his putting woes. "Today was probably the first real hot day I've had with the blade in a long, long time."
He's hoping that fine work on the greens continues in the next three rounds. "We all know it's about consistency and that's what I'm still working toward," Rose added. "It's just fun to know that I obviously can do it, and I take a lot of confidence from that."
Huh, who was born in New York City and now lives in Los Angeles, won as a first-year player last year in the Miyakoba Classic in Mexico, beating Robert Allenby in a playoff, a victory that helped him be awarded the Tour's 2012 Rookie of the Year. Also starting on the 10th tee, the 22-year-old carded six birdies and a bogey for a 67.
John Rollins and Canada's Steve Fritsch posted 68s for a share of third place, while Woods had a 69 and is tied for fifth with several players.
Woods, who could supplant Rory McIlroy as the top-ranked player in the world with a win this week - which would be his Tour-record-tying eighth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, got off to a so-so start with a birdie, eagle (on the 16th) before finishing his opening nine with two bogeys for a 1-under 35.
On his home half, Woods, who won his last time out two weeks ago at the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral in Miami, had three birdies on the fourth through sixth holes before a bogey on the par-3 seventh. "I didn't drive it well, didn't hit my irons well and didn't control my distances or trajectory well," Woods told PGATour.com about his round.
Woods was a bit erratic off the tee - hitting just eight fairways and 12 greens, and needed 28 putts in defense of his title. But he scrambled well enough to reach 3-under. "It's just making a key save, a key putt here and there and keeping the round going," he added.
"I certainly didn't play my best, but I got around and made a few good saves out there. I got a lot out of this round, and I threw away a few shots as well."
Playing in his first tournament in five weeks, Brandt Snedeker opened with a 4-over 76. Before winning the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on February 10, the 32-year-old Nashville native had racked up two runner-ups, a third-place and five top-25 finishes in five starts in the young 2013 season, earning $2,859,920 and soaring to the top of the FedEx Cup standings.
But Snedeker hasn't played since mid-February due to a rib injury he suffered in the final round at Pebble Beach. The rust showed Thursday, as he had three bogeys, two birdies and a triple on the par-3 17th hole. "I was a little apprehensive this morning when it was so cold," he told reporters later. "Once I warmed up, it felt great and I feel good right now, so all systems go."
But Snedeker was encouraged despite his opening round. "I felt really good," he noted. "I'm actually encouraged, despite the fact that I shot 4-over. My iron game is not where I want it to be; that's what killed me today. Besides that, I drove the ball really well, my putting was good. It's just my iron game that really killed me today. If you don't do that well, you're going to pay the price and I did."
Kevin Streelman, who earned his maiden victory in last week's Tampa Bay Championship after 153 Tour events, also got off to a rough start with a 74. Other players starting slow were Phil Mickelson (73) and 2010 Arnold Palmer Invitational winner Els (75).
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