Justin Rose takes an early lead at Arnold Palmer
AN eagle on the par-five 16th powered Justin Rose into an early lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.
Rose separated himself from a chasing pack including defending champion Tiger Woods with a strong finish, making up four shots over six holes to finish seven under par for his opening round.
Rose dropped a shot on the par-four 11th, but four birdies in a row from the fourth to the seventh holes had already put him in a strong position.
The 32-year-old has often struggled with his putting, but it was his control on the greens that highlighted today's round.
"That's been the error of my game since June last year," Rose told the PGA Tour website.
"Today was probably the first real hot day I've had with the blade in a long, long time."
While Rose was in no hurry to say he had put his putting problems behind him, things are certainly looking up.
"We all know it's about consistency and that's what I'm still working toward," he added.
"It's just fun to know that I obviously can do it, and I take a lot of confidence from that."
Rose's lead was coming under threat from John Huh, who was one shot behind when he reached the 16th hole, but Rose had already seen another dangerous foe - Woods - lose ground.
Woods, back on form following wins at Doral and Torrey Pines, and back in the news thanks to his relationship with star skier Lindsey Vonn, had enjoyed a strong start to his round on the back nine and matched Rose's eagle on the 16th.
But the American, hoping to reclaim the world number one ranking, then dropped those shots immediately with bogeys on both the 17th and 18th.
"I didn't drive it well, didn't hit my irons well and didn't control my distances or trajectory well," Woods said.
He would have three straight birdies after making the turn, but then bogeyed the seventh to give another shot back.
"It's just making a key save, a key putt here and there and keeping the round going," Woods said.
"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."
Woods' 69 had him in a tie for fifth place, with John Rollins enjoying a share of third after a round of 68.
Lee Westwood was also among the early starters, but bogeyed the 18th to sign for a 71.