The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

March 22, 2013

Rose gets hot with the putter to lead Bay Hill

(Continued)

John Rollins and Brad Fritsch were at 68.

Also in the group at 69 with Woods were Ryo Ishikawa of Japan, Nick Watney, Sean O'Hair and Bill Haas, who bogeyed his last two holes.

British Open champion Ernie Els played with Rose and Woods and disappeared quickly. The Big Easy kept pulling his tee shots and getting into trouble, dropping five shots in the opening five holes. He rallied with a 4-iron to 2 feet for birdie on the 18th, and a 9-iron to about the same tap-in range on his final hole at No. 9 to salvage a 75.

Brandt Snedeker, playing for the first time in five weeks because of a rib injury, took triple bogey on his 17th hole and had a 76. Snedeker's 5-iron on the 17th didn't quite clear the hazard where the sand meets the lake. Coming off his injury, he wasn't interesting in trying to gouge it out, which he probably couldn't have done, anyway. At least he had his health at the end of the round. "Encouraged," he said about his ribs.

Phil Mickelson felt terrible about his swing, and it showed. Even so, the four-time major champion made an eagle putt on the 16th to reach 1 under, only to throw those shots away with three-putt bogeys on the last two holes.

"I feel terrible walking off the course," Mickelson said, and this was right after he was randomly selected for a drug test.

For Rose, it was all about the putter — and he didn't even need any help from Steve Stricker, who gave Woods a key putting tip at Doral.

Rose began to work hard on his putting after the U.S. Open last summer, and he's had some decent rounds. At Medinah last September, he knocked in a 45-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole against Phil Mickelson, in effect the difference in Europe winning the cup.

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