3/8/2019 11:58:14 AM

Cabrera Bello two clear at Arnold Palmer Invitational

Cabrera Bello two clear at Arnold Palmer Invitational

Miami, United States: Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello narrowly missed a hole-in-one on his way to taking a two-shot lead in the opening round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida on Thursday.

Cabrera Bello, who is chasing his first win on the US PGA Tour, carded a seven-under-par 65 at the Bay Hill course in Orlando after draining eight birdies and one bogey.

The 34-year-old from Las Palmas, who teed off on the 10th, almost capped a superb performance with an ace at the par-three second, drilling his tee-shot to within a foot of the pin.

The near-miss highlighted the Spaniard's red hot iron play throughout the round, which helped set up an opening birdie on the par-four 10th when he nailed his second shot to within four feet.

Further birdies followed on the 12th and 13th to take him to three under before rolling in a six-foot birdie putt on the 15th to reach four under at the turn.

Although his momentum stalled with a bogey on his 10th hole, Cabrera Bello's birdie at the second was followed by three more birdies down the stretch to leave him in sole possession of the leaderboard.

"There's a lot of challenging shots," Cabrera Bello said. "Pretty much on every hole it's inviting you to take a risk and it really gets you focused on what you want to do," added Cabrera Bello, who was playing alongside Arnold Palmer's grandson Sam Saunders on Thursday.

"I'm really happy to be playing here for the first time. To win an event that has the name of one of the greatest players on earth would be really special, but it's only Thursday."

Cabrera Bello will head into the second round two clear of Keegan Bradley, who shot a flawless five-under-par 67 to take sole occupancy of second place on the leaderboard. Bradley's round included five birdies and 13 pars.

Lefty goes righty 

Five players were tied for third after carding four-under-par 68s -- Graeme McDowell, Patrick Rodgers, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson and Billy Horschel.

Mickelson's 68 was distorted by a double-bogey six at the 10th which dropped him from three under to one under.

The double-bogey included a bizarre attempted recovery shot, with the left-handed Mickelson switching to a right-handed stance in a failed attempt to play his way out of trouble when his tee-shot ended up nestled against a fence alongside the left fairway.

The 48-year-old five-time Major winner rallied over the closing holes however, making three more birdies including a birdie at the last to stay in touch with the leaders.

Elsewhere Thursday, reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed was five shots off the lead in 15th place after a two-under-par 70.

World number two Justin Rose was a shot back after an opening 71.

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy had an erratic start with an even-par 70, finishing with back-to-back birdies to rescue his opening round.

But it was an unhappy first round for Australia's Jason Day, who succumbed to a back injury and withdrew after completing only six holes. 

The 31-year-old walked off the course after playing his second shot on the 16th after teeing off on the back nine.

Day later revealed he had been struggling with a sore back last week and underwent an MRI scan on Monday which indicated a tear in a disc.

"I just wanted to see if I could get out here and my back may have loosened up," Day said. "But, unfortunately, it didn't, so I had to pull out."

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