Spencer Levin is atop the leaderboard after the opening round for the third time this year, so that’s nothing new. It was his score yesterday afternoon at Bay Hill that surprised him and everyone else.
In warm, blustery conditions on a course that allowed only three rounds in the 60s and the most rounds in the 80s in nearly two decades, Levin had a 6-under-par 66 and a three-shot lead over Rickie Fowler and Hunter Mahan in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Orlando, Fla.
“Six under . . . I didn’t really even think about that on the range,’’ Levin said. “Because I know the course is hard, anyway, and then you have 20-, 30-mile-per-hour wind and makes it even more tough. I was just kind of hoping anything around par, maybe anything under par, would be a good score in the afternoon for sure.’’
Tiger Woods and his power group of Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland provided the entertainment everyone expected, although not this variety. Woodland hit a tee shot onto another golf course, Johnson wound up 80 yards over a green and onto the next tee, and Woods angrily tossed his wedge after his best shot of the day.
Their scores weren’t impressive.
Woods missed a 10-foot par putt on the last hole for a 73, his highest opening round since 1999 at Bay Hill, where he is a six-time winner. Johnson and Woodland, coming off a win last week at Innisbrook, each shot 77.
Levin built the largest 18-hole lead of the year on the PGA Tour, but even that doesn’t illustrate how well he played. His 66 was nearly nine shots better than the average score at Bay Hill, which featured gusts over 20 miles per hour and crusty conditions in the afternoon.
Fowler and Mahan played in the morning, as did Phil Mickelson, who opened with a 70.
The tough conditions showed themselves more at the bottom of the leaderboard. US Open champion Graeme McDowell had an 80, as did Bob Hope winner Jhonattan Vegas and Brandt Snedeker. Ricky Barnes shot an 82.
There were 13 rounds in the 80s, the most at Bay Hill since there were 24 in the second round in 1983.
Levin, who also had at least a share of the lead in the
“That was nice,’’ Levin said. “Obviously, a lot better mood. Parred the last two when I could have bogeyed, so that was good.’’
There wasn’t much good about the feature group.
Woods struggled with his tee shots on the front nine and didn’t hit a single fairway, although he was in big trouble only once off the tee. The bigger problem was the wind, and Woods twice had to back off putts because he couldn’t keep still.
“I didn’t drive it well starting out, and then I golf a hold of that,’’ Woods said. “Hit my irons well all day, and on the green, it was just tough to take the putter back straight because the wind was gusting and it was tough to get the right speed.’’
Mickelson didn’t hit it his best, was pleased with his short game, especially on the greens. He took only 26 putts, and said it helped that the greens rolled true except in a crosswind.
LPGA — Amanda Blumenherst birdied the final four holes for a 7-under 66 and a one-stroke lead over Sanda Gal in the Kia Classic in Industry, Calif.
Blumenherst, the former Duke star seeking her first LPGA Tour victory, had nine birdies and two bogeys in her opening round on the Industry Hills Golf Club course at Pacific Palms.
Michelle Wie, returning after finishing finals at Stanford, birdied the par-5 18th for a 68.
Top-ranked Yani Tseng, the winner of the LPGA Thailand and three other worldwide events this year, opened with a 71. Karrie Webb, coming off her second straight victory Sunday in Phoenix, shot a 72.
Nationwide — Rich Barcelo shot a 6-under 65 for a one-shot lead on a trio of players at the Louisiana Open, the tour’s domestic opener, in Broussard.
Northboro’s Fran Quinn was in a group of five players two shots back.