Adam Scott left the field trailing in his wake as he closed in on a victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational which could see him defend his US Masters title as world No 1.
Scott held a three-shot lead after a stunning opening ten-under-par 62 at Bay Hill, which equalled the course record held by Andy Bean and his fellow Australian Greg Norman.
And the 33-year-old extended his advantage to seven strokes with a second round of 68 on Friday, marred only by bogeys on the seventh and 18th, where he three-putted from long range.
Victory today would leave Scott fractionally behind the absent Tiger Woods in the world rankings, but if neither man plays again before Augusta, Scott would assume top spot in the rankings in time for the first major of the year.
“I think it was a pretty good way to back up a low round,” Scott said in his post-round press conference. “It’s not easy to do that, especially around a tough course.
“And I think the first hole was key in keeping some momentum out of yesterday, making kind of a scrappy par and a good putt on the first to feel like I’m heading in the right direction to start the day. Then I played really solid. I would say I struck the ball much better than yesterday, but just didn’t quite make the putts. But it’s tough to do that all the time around a track like this.”
Italy’s Francesco Molinari and American duo JB Holmes and Chesson Hadley were Scott’s closest challengers on seven under par, with Welshman Jamie Donaldson carding a 71 to lie six under alongside former US PGA champion Keegan Bradley and Brandt Snedeker. Ian Poulter also returned a 71 to lie five under, but it was not such a good day for his Ryder Cup team-mate and fellow Orlando resident Graeme McDowell, who followed his opening 68 with a second round of 77 that did not feature a single birdie.
McDowell at least made the cut on one over par, while US Open champion Justin Rose made an early exit after crashing to a second round of 79. Paul Casey also slumped to a 79 after his opening 67 to make the cut on the mark of two over, while Lee Westwood and amateur Matt Fitzpatrick finished seven over and former Open champion Darren Clarke nine over.