Conners builds 1-shot lead at Bay Hill as McIlroy lurks
Conners surged into the lead with a 25-foot eagle putt on the par-5 16th hole — his second eagle on that hole in two days — for a 3-under 69 and a one-shot advantage over former Bay Hill winner Martin Laird (67). He was two shots behind, along with Viktor Hovland and Lanto Griffin, who each had a 68. The forecast featured plenty of rain Saturday, which figures to make Bay Hill play longer and tougher, while also keeping the greens from getting as crusty as they were last year when Tyrrell Hatton won with a closing 74. He won at Bay Hill in 2011 on a final round so tough a 75 was enough to get the job done. He played in the morning, had a pair of birdies and came to the 16th, the easiest at Bay Hill.
McIlroy, DeChambeau put on a show for fans at Bay Hill
The fans were limited in numbers but they all wanted the same dose of entertainment provided by Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau. Defending champion Tyrrell Hatton shot a 77, while past Bay Hill winner Francesco Molinari took a step back from his progress with a 78. He made three of his birdies on par 3s, the strength of Bay Hill. Through it all, it was the activity outside the ropes at Bay Hill that stood out. The tournament is allowing 25% of capacity — roughly 5,000 fans a day — and when most are watching some of golf's bigger draws such as McIlroy, DeChambeau and Spieth, it feels even larger.
Late entry Brandon Hagy opens with 64 at American Express
Brandon Hagy hits from the 17th tee during the first round of The American Express golf tournament on the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in La Quinta, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)LA QUINTA, Calif. – Brandon Hagy didn't find out he was in the field at The American Express until three days before it started. Hagy took the first-round lead Thursday with an 8-under 64 on the Nicklaus course, staying one shot ahead of South Korea's Byeong Hun An in the opening tournament of the PGA Tour's West Coast swing. Hagy was added to the AmEx field Monday when second-ranked Jon Rahm abruptly dropped out without giving a reason to tour officials. Hagy started with a bogey on the first hole of the Nicklaus course, but then the birdies came in bunches. After making eight cuts last year, Hagy is back at full health after a solid offseason of preparation.
Laird redeems himself in playoff to win again in Las Vegas
He had to return to the par-3 17th in a three-man playoff to finish the job with a birdie. “It's been a while since my last one, and you have some doubts at times whether you're going to get another one,” Laird said. To see that putt go in, it was pretty special.”It was the third time Laird has been in a playoff in Las Vegas, all of them involving three players. He still had status that carried over because of the shutdown, but fell so far down the list that he needed as sponsor exemption for Las Vegas. Laird needed a pair of top-10 finishes in opposite-field events at the end of the 2019 season just to keep his card.