The Arnold Palmer Invitational Halfway Hut: Viktor Hovland leads, Rory McIlroy leads the chase

News, stats, quotes and social media after 36 holes at the Bay Hill Club where the Norwegian hit the front with a second round 66.

In recent times Bay Hill has proved itself a hard challenge and late on Friday Rory McIlroy was given a reminder of those memories, and also a taste of what might be to come at the weekend.

With four holes of his second round to play the Northern Irishman was tied at the top of the Arnold Palmer Invitational leaderboard with Viktor Hovland, but the Norwegian had the luxury of being in the clubhouse having totalled 9-under 135 with laps of 69-66.

McIlroy was dealing with a double blow: Bay Hill was playing two strokes tougher in round two than in round one and the early/late wave of pre-weekend starters were taking on average 1.5 strokes more to complete their laps than late/early had.

In the circumstances he may reflect that, even though he dropped shots at the 15th and 17th to join Talor Gooch and Tyrrell Hatton in a share of second on 7-under 137, he's not in a bad spot given that handicap.

Billy Horschel trails that trio by one shot, alone in fifth, and he is fully three shots clear of seven players in a tie for sixth: the top five have opened up an unusual gap on the peloton.

They make an intriguing lead group. McIlroy and Hatton are past winners on the course, but Gooch (in his fourth visit) and Horschel (in his 10th) are seeking a first top 10 while Hovland is looking to improve on a best of T40th in his fourth appearance.

While the leader's record looks poor, he was tied third at this stage 12 months ago prior to carding 77-78 at the weekend, an experience that he insists taught him a big lesson.

The weekend will put that notion fully to the test.

Stats

Eight of the last 26 winners at Bay Hill were outside the top five at the halfway stage, but only four were six or more shots back of the lead.

That gives the distant chasers some hope and there are valid reasons why the leaders have and might stumble: the greens are swift and hard to begin with; if the wind gets up they become swifter and harder for the late starters (the leaders).

The current forecast is for blustery breezes of around 15mph, maybe increasing a little for the leaders.

Hovland and Hatton went on a tear across the greens Friday, prompting this delicious exchange after McIlroy's round. Q: What if I told you Viktor only had 23 putts today? A: See how he does tomorrow. Q: What about Tyrrell with 22? A: See how he does tomorrow.

Hovland is 1-for-3 at converting a halfway lead. He is also on record as saying he enjoys playing in wind and has a logbook that backs it up.

Bay Hill weekend scoring averages of the current top five? Hovland 74.50, Hatton 71.60, McIlroy 70.08, Gooch 72.84, Horschel 73.32.

As noted at the start of the week, Bay Hill winners do not fritter away shots on the tough par-3s. The last eight have all ranked top six on the short holes.

Gooch leads the Par-3 scoring this week, Hovland is third, McIlroy 14th, but Hatton and Horschel are 42nd and 60th.

Quotes

Viktor Hovland - leading on 9-under

"I try to forget the weekend here last year. I played really well the first few days, very similar to kind of how I played so far this year. The course just gets harder and harder every single day, and it started blowing. A few too many bad swings and I ended up in bad spots and just didn't really take my medicine. I kind of compounded the errors instead of playing smart and just taking the bogey when you're out of position. It hurt me a little bit, but at the same time, I felt like I learned a lot."

Tyrrell Hatton - tied second on 7-under

"I think the score is pretty flattering. I've putted really good, which is why I've got the score that I have, but I know that I can't keep hitting it that badly with it playing much tougher this weekend. Obviously, it's nice to be back here and good memories (of the win) from two years ago. But I know deep down the long game isn't good enough to have a chance to win if I keep playing like that. So, I just have figure something out."

Rory McIlroy - tied second on 7-under

"It's going to be interesting to see where they go from here, but it's going to be a good test over the weekend. I'm glad I got 18 holes in those conditions because the course definitely changed a lot from when I played it yesterday morning to this afternoon. I'll be a little more prepared for it tomorrow."

Talor Gooch - tied second on 7-under

"I don't know if they can get the greens any firmer or faster without it getting ridiculous. There would be a few players not too happy if that were the case. You know what to expect on weeks like this. It just really epitomizes one shot at a time. It's so cliche, but it's a cliche for a reason."

Billy Horschel - fifth on 6-under

"I thought today was going to be a special day. 4-under through seven holes, missed the birdie putt from about six feet on No. 13 to be 4-under after four. Made a bad swing, a really bad swing at 17, probably one of the worst swings I've made in a month. Then from there, the swing just sort of didn't feel nearly as good. But happy with the way I played the last two days and sitting in a really good spot going into the weekend."

Social

Tee time raffle:

Numero uno:

From downtown:

Keeping it low under the wind:

It was the first round but worth remembering next time you miss a tiddler - even the World No. 1 does it:

READ MORE: Zach Johnson to captain Team USA in the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome, seeking first away win since 1993

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