MIAMI: Matthew Fitzpatrick fired a bogey-free five-under-par 67 Thursday to match Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo for the lead after the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
The 22-year-old Englishman seeks his first career US PGA victory after three European Tour triumphs, the most recent last November at Dubai when he captured the World Tour Championship by one shot over compatriot Tyrrell Hatton.
England’s Paul Casey shared third, one stroke off the pace, with former US Open winner Lucas Glover and fellow American Charley Hoffman while Australians Greg Chalmers and Ryan Ruffels were in sixth on 69.
Fitzpatrick, who began his tour of the famed Orlando layout on the back nine, birdied the par-5 16th after reaching the green in two and added back-to-back birdies at 18, sinking a 15-foot putt, and one, dropping a 25-footer.
He birdied the third after dropping his approach three feet from the cup and added another at the par-5 sixth, blasting his third shot from a greenside bunker to four feet and sinking the putt.
Grillo endured a wilder ride with birdies at the third and par-5 fourth holes, then closed the front nine with birdies on four of the final five holes – three putts between eight and 13 feet and the last a 47-foot birdie effort at the ninth.
The South American standout, whose lone US PGA win came at the 2015 Frys.com Open, followed with birdies at the 11th, par-5 16th and par-3 17th. He missed a 19-foot eagle putt at 16 for a tap-in birdie before dropping a 40-foot birdie bomb at the penultimate hole.
Aussie Jason Day, the world number two, was in a 12-man pack on 70 that also included South Africans Louis oosthuizen and Trevor Immelman, Canadians Adam Hadwin and David Hearn, Sweden’s Alex Noren and Aussie Aaron Baddeley.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, ranked fourth, opened on 73 while third-ranked Rory McIlroy, hoping for a fifth career major title and the completion of a career Grand Slam at next month’s Masters, fired a 74. --AFP