Laird takes Bay Hill lead; Tiger still in picture

Posted March 25, 2011, at 8:27 p.m.
Last modified March 25, 2011, at 11:47 p.m.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Martin Laird reached three par 5s in two shots, converted one of them into an eagle and shot a 7-under 65 for a one-shot lead over K.J. Choi and Spencer Levin in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

It wasn’t just the par 5s at Bay Hill on Friday. Even without any wind in the afternoon, Laird hit driver on the 384-yard fifth hole to set up a simple pitch and another birdie. He closed his round with a 321-yard tee shot on the ninth and a 12-foot birdie.

Choi put in three hybrids to go with his driver and two fairway metals, all to get ready for the Masters. It paid dividends at Bay Hill with a tournament-best 64. Levin didn’t play his best in the morning, but his putting carried him to a 70. Levin made all four of his birdie putts outside 15 feet to stay atop the leaderboard until Laird’s late surge.

Tiger Woods was still in the game, too.

Woods raised his arm on the ninth green as his 20-foot birdie putt rolled in for a 4-under 68, leaving him six shots behind going into the weekend. Considering how so much of his year has gone, this would be considered progress for the six-time winner at Bay Hill.

Laird was at 9-under 135.

Kia Classic

INDUSTRY, Calif. — Second-ranked Jiyai Shin shot a bogey-free 9-under 64, birdieing nine of the first 14 holes, to take a four-stroke lead in the rain-delayed Kia Classic.

The South Korean star, an eight-time winner on the LPGA Tour, had a 12-under 134 total on the Industry Hills Golf Club course at Pacific Palms. Seventy-two players, all of the afternoon starters, were unable to finish the round after rain delayed the start three hours.

Germany’s Sandra Gal was second at 8 under with nine holes left when play was suspended for the day because of darkness. Amanda Blumenherst, the first-round leader, and Chella Choi were third at 6 under. Blumenherst had nine holes remaining, while Choi shot a 68.

Michelle Wie, returning to the tour after finishing finals at Stanford, followed an opening 68 with a 75 to drop nine strokes behind Shin at 3 under. Wie bogeyed three of her final four holes.

Andalucia Open

MALAGA, Spain — Dutchman Maarten Lafeber shot a 5-under 65 for a share of the second-round lead in the Andalucia Open with Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg and Denmark’s Jeppe Huldahl.

Karlberg had a 67 and Huldahl shot a 66 to match Lafeber at 8-under 132.

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