ORLANDO – (Wire Service Report) – On a rather chilly morning for Florida, Emiliano Grillo warmed to the challenge at Bay Hill and emerged as the first-round leader along with Matt Fitzpatrick on Thursday after each finished with a 5-under-par 67 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Fla.
Grillo started in the morning when the temperature was 40 degrees and the conditions were tougher. The Argentinian bogeyed consecutive holes at Nos. 3 and 4 before rallying with seven birdies, including four on the front nine and three on the back.
“If I had my hands out of my pockets for a minute or two, I would be freezing,” Grillo said. “But I was able to keep it in the fairway mostly all day and I was able to make a few good putts on 9 and 17, and that kept me going.”
Fitzpatrick started later and was steady. The 22-year-old Englishman posted six birdies and no bogeys.
In a three-way tie for third at 68 were Lucas Glover, Paul Casey of England and Charley Hoffman.
Australians Greg Chalmers and Ryan Ruffels were next at 69. Chalmers recovered from an opening bogey.
Among a large group at 70 were defending champion Jason Day and Canadian Adam Hadwin, who claimed his first PGA Tour victory last week at the Valspar Championship.
Rory McIlroy opened with a 74 as did Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer. Saunders struggled coming in after reaching 2 under for the day.
Day has played just four events this year while struggling with back issues and illness. He consequently lost his No. 1 world ranking.
“Anything under par in the morning was great,” Day said.
Day fondly recalls last year’s tournament and sitting down with the tournament host for the final time. Palmer died several months later.
“This guy’s such an icon in the game of golf and it’s sad that no one gets to do that anymore,” Day said. “So, that’s something that I will always hold dear to my heart, because I was the last guy to have that congratulatory drink with him.”
Everyone is missing Palmer this week. Saunders, the King’s 29-year-old grandson, could sense it.
“I see him, I feel him, you hear about him,” Saunders said. “There were so many well wishes out there toward me today, and his presence is overwhelming. It always will be.