TIGER WOODS is thrilled to have regained all his power... now he must recover his Midas touch with the putter to achieve further glory on the PGA Tour.
Woods takes immense pleasure these days from hitting "normal drives" 310 yards and he wielded that power effortlessly on his way to a first-round 69 at the Arnie Palmer Invitational.
A six-time winner at Bay Hill, the fit-again Tiger hardly extended himself as he eased into a seven-way tie for fourth on three-under. They were three off the pace set by American Jason Dufner and Korea's Charlie Wi with 66s.
Graeme McDowell played reasonably well but, like Tiger, appeared to grapple with the heavier-than-usual grain on the putting surfaces as he racked-up 32 putts on his way to a level-par 72.
Woods confessed: "I didn't really do anything great out there. I drove the ball okay, hit my irons decent and putted alright. I'd two three-putts but made a couple of bombs.
"I didn't really feel great with my tee shots but I was getting my ball in play. They were flying forever. Normal drives were going about 310 yards or so and it was kind of nice."
Needing a top-three finish this week to make the Masters, Ernie Els was cruising on three-under before he dropped two shots in the final four holes and then missed a four-footer for birdie at the last for a frustrating one-under 71.
Sergio Garcia and Scotland's defending champion Martin Laird shot level-par 72s. Phil Mickelson had double-bogeys on 18 and three but finished with three birdies in the final six holes of his 73.
Arnold Palmer Invitational,
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leads Ireland charge
THE Irish quartet continues to lead the way going into today's third round of the European Nations Cup, while Mourne's Reeve Whitson remains the top individual in Sotogrande, Spain.
The former Irish Stroke Play champion followed up a first-round 68 with a 74 yesterday, keeping him first in the standings, one shot clear of Ballymena's Dermot McElroy, who is tied for second.
McElroy hit 72 in his second round, while Muskerry's three-time Munster Strokeplay champion Niall Gorey carded a 76, as Ireland extended their advantage over the other 16 countries taking part.
For the second round running, Alan Dunbar's was the score to be dropped from the combined Irish total. That 36-hole aggregate of 434 is seven better than Italy and nine clear of France.