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Caddie Steve Williams and Adam Scott discuss strategy on the 17th tee Friday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Scott shot a 68 to lead by seven shots.
Golf

Masters champion opens 7-shot lead

– Adam Scott keeps putting his name in the Bay Hill record book, each round moving him closer to another handshake with The King.

One day after Scott opened with a record-tying 62 in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he hit his stride around the turn Friday with five birdies in an eight-hole stretch to leave everyone else far behind. Even with a three-putt bogey on his final hole, Scott still had a 4-under 68 for a seven-shot lead.

He was at 14-under 130, matching the 36-hole record at Bay Hill first set by Tom Watson and Andy Bean in 1981. And his seven-shot margin at the halfway point shattered the previous record held by Tiger Woods in 2002 and Paul Azinger in 1988.

Scott sounds like he’s not the least bit satisfied.

“The challenge might be just to start again and try and play a great 36 holes,” he said. “Start fresh and try to be the leader after the next 36.”

That would merit a visit with Arnold Palmer, the tournament host known simply as “The King” in golf circles. Scott has spoken glowingly all week about his first invitation to Bay Hill when he was 20. Walking off the first green, Palmer was in a cart to greet him with a handshake, and Scott was amazed that Palmer knew his name.

Now he’s the Masters champion, and the 33-year-old Australian is playing like one.

J.B. Holmes (69), Chesson Hadley (68) and Francesco Molinari of Italy (70) were tied for second at 7-under. Keegan Bradley had the low score of the blustery second round with a 67, putting him in a group at 138 that included Brandt Snedeker (71) and Jamie Donaldson of Wales (71).

“I think I’m 10 behind and playing pretty well for two rounds,” said Snedeker, who was off by two. “He’s playing pretty phenomenal. He’s going to be a tough guy to catch. A guy that hits it as good as he does and seems to have a complete game like he has, and the way he’s playing now, he’s not going to come backward. Seems like an awfully special week if you can get close to him.”

Scott played in the afternoon, when the course began to get firm under two days of full sunshine, and the pace on the greens began to quicken. No one ever got closer than his three-shot lead to start the round, though there were two pivotal moments.

He holed a 15-foot par putt on the first hole to calm his nerves, and he hit a gorgeous shot out of the rough from 167 yards and made a 12-foot birdie on the ninth. He went to the back nine 1-under par for his round, and he took off from there.

Scott hit a 7-iron to 4 feet on No. 11, got up-and-down for birdie on the par-3 12th, nearly holed a tough chip from behind the 14th green to save par, and then made consecutive birdies with a 30-foot putt on the 15th and a 7-iron to pin-high for a two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th.

CHAMPIONS: In Saucier, Miss., Fred Couples shot a 6-under 66 to take a two-shot lead after the first round of the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic at Fallen Oak.

Couples, 54, continued his run of good play after winning the Toshiba Classic in Newport Beach, Calif., last weekend. He has also had recent success at Fallen Oak, winning in 2012.

Jeff Maggert shot a 68 in his Champions Tour debut, joining Kenny Perry, David Frost, Jay Haas and last year’s tournament champion Michael Allen in second place. Couples started the day on No. 10 and made five birdies over his first eight holes. It was Couples’ 12th straight round in the 60s on the Champions Tour, one shy of the record set by Hale Irwin in 1999.

LPGA: In Phoenix, Mirim Lee remained atop the JTBC Founders Cup leader board in her third LPGA Tour start.

The 23-year-old South Korean player shot a 5-under 67 to take a two-stroke advantage over 16-year-old Lydia Ko into the weekend at Desert Ridge’s Wildfire Golf Club.

A three-time winner on the Korean LPGA, Lee played the final eight holes in 5 under, making an eagle and three birdies to reach 13-under 131. She opened with a 64 on Thursday for a one-shot lead.

Ko, the Canadian Women’s Open winner as an amateur the last two years, shot 66. The first-year pro played a late six-hole stretch in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

55 US Open winner Jack Fleck, 92, dies

Jack Fleck, who produced one of golf’s greatest upsets by beating Ben Hogan in a playoff to win the 1955 U.S. Open, died Friday in Fort Smith, Ark. He was 92.

He had been the oldest living U.S. Open champion.

The Edwards Funeral Home said Fleck died after a brief illness.

Hogan appeared to be on his way to a record fifth U.S. Open title in 1955, closing with a 70 to finish at 7-over 287. He already was being congratulated by players who figured no one could catch him. But Fleck, an Iowa club pro in his first year on the PGA Tour, made two birdies over the final four holes for a 67 to force a playoff.

Fleck shot 69 in the playoff to beat Hogan by three shots.

“It was like someone who had never won a tour tournament beating Tiger Woods today,” Fleck said in a 2002 interview with The Associated Press.

Fleck won only two other events on the PGA Tour. He also won the Senior PGA Championship in 1979.

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