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Tommy Fleetwood and Keegan Bradley are in a tense duel after 36 holes at the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Both players finished in the second round on Friday, tied for the lead, at nine under par. Fleetwood was tied for the best round of the day with a under 66. Bradley followed his 67 in the first round with a 68.
No other player is less than three shots of the head starting on the weekend.
Here's what the top of the Bay Hill standings, via PGATour.com:
T1. Tommy Fleetwood (-9)
T1. Keegan Bradley (-9)
T3. Billy Horschel (-5)
T3. Jhonattan Vegas (-5)
T3. Francesco Molinari (-5)
T3. Keith Mitchell (-5)
T3. Kevin Kisner (-5)
T3. Roger Sloan (-5)
Fleetwood has already played its best event on the PGA Tour in 2019. This is its first event with at least two innings under 70 since the WGC-HSBC Champions Tournament in October.
The Englishman, native of England, climbed to the top of the standings by shooting six under par holes on four normal five holes, including two eagles.
Despite leaving the course in prime position to claim his first victory since the HSBC Championship of Abu Dhabi on the European circuit of January 2018, Fleetwood seemed to be cool in the face of how quickly things can change.
"I played well here, I had good rounds and poor ones too," Fleetwood told reporters, via Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press. "I think it can go in all directions around this golf course … I hope to be able to continue playing well here." It was nice to spend a day like this and to feel myself constantly comfortable, really, good golfing shots. "
Fleetwood can not afford to be complacent because Bradley was just as effective in two rounds. The 32-year-old did nothing extraordinary Friday, finishing with six birdies and two bogeys.
The key for Bradley as the weekend approaches will be to avoid the wrong trick. He has played four consecutive tournaments with at least one lap above normal.
Phil Mickelson is a player who has cost himself a chance to win this weekend with a dreadful performance. Lefty started the tournament in big with a first round 68 that placed him in third place.
Things quickly deteriorated after Mickelson left the course in the second round with a score of 78 to six. That hurt him so much that he wondered whether or not he should play next week at TPC Sawgrass.
"I mean, I want to play, so I would most likely do it, but if I hit it like that, it's useless, so I have to find something," Mickelson told reporters, via Brentley Romine's Golf Channel.
Mickelson's nightmarish round included double bogeys on numbers 8 and 16, three bogeys and a birdie. If there is a glimmer of hope, it has rebounded after bad days like this. The future Hall of Famer opened the WGC-Mexico Championship with a 79 before finishing even at the end of the weekend.
Even though Rickie Fowler's first round was as bad as Mickelson's on Friday, he was left on the bubble for the weekend with a 74 th on Thursday. He was again on the map at the front of the second lap on the second lap, making the round with a 38 on two.
The last nine have seen Fowler finally put everything up with three birdies and no boguey to make before the weekend just under the dividing line:
Reigning champion Rory McIlroy had a modest start at two-under par. He seemed to be in line for a good day on the front nine, especially with this tee shot at the sixth hole of the normal five who prepared him for an eagle:
305 yards or more carry water.
Wow, @ McIlroyRory. 🦅
At dawn on Saturday, only one of the winners of the Arnold Palmer Invitational since 2012 scores lower than 13 under par. Fleetwood and Bradley are the only players on the pace for a low score so far.