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Sunday 17 December 2017

mcilory keeps hoff' in sights

American Morgan Hoffmann continued to set the pace at the top of the leaderboard in the Arnold Palmer Invitationalyesterday, but had world number one Rory McIlroy among his nearest challengers at Bay Hill.

Hoffmann fired nine birdies and two bogeys to add a 65 to his opening 66 and set the clubhouse target on 13 under par, five ahead of McIlroy who carded five birdies in succession during his 66.

McIlroy (pictured) had not broken 70 on the PGA Tour in 2015 before today and needed to save par from greenside bunkers three times to cover the back nine in 34 after birdies on the 10th and 16th.

However, the four-time major winner clicked into top gear after the turn, holing from 18 feet on the second, six feet on the third and seven feet on the fourth before a superb approach to the fifth left him just inches from the hole.

The 25-year-old then got up and down from another bunker on the par-five sixth for his fifth straight birdie and the streak only came to an end when he narrowly missed from 35 feet on the next.

McIlroy's only bogey of the day came after a miscued drive led to him finding yet more sand on the eighth, but the Open champion will have been happy with his progress in his last competitive outing before attempting to become the sixth player to complete the career grand slam by winning the Masters next month.

Hoffmann's halfway total of 131 was just one shot outside the tournament record set by Adam Scott last year, although the Australian failed to convert a seven-shot halfway lead after opening rounds of 62 and 68.

The 25-year-old found out before his first round on Thursday that his 97-year-old grandmother had passed away a few hours earlier and hopes to attend a memorial service for her in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday.

Hoffmann pilots his own plane that he recently bought from his friend David Booth, who plays left wing for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Hoffmann, who had eight birdies in 11 holes from the third, discovered before his opening round that his 97-year-old grandmother had passed away and plans to attend a memorial service for her in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday.

"There are times in your life when you really get hit by something and that was yesterday for me," Hoffmann said.

"And it helped me appreciate life and being out here, enjoying the weather and playing golf. I am living my dream so I can't be happier."

Asked about trying to win his first PGA Tour title this weekend, he added: "I'm really not going to think about it or look at any scores. Just going to try and hit the middle of the greens and stick to my plan."

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