(Reuters) - Australian Adam Scott produced another masterful driving display to surge to a rare seven-shot lead after the second round at the $6.2 million Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida on Friday.
The Masters champion, who started the day with a three-shot cushion after an opening 62, more than doubled his advantage with a four-under-par 68 on the Bay Hill course in Orlando.
No one has had a bigger halfway lead on the PGA Tour in nearly 24 years as Scott equaled the tournament’s 36-hole record by Andy Bean and Tom Watson in 1981.
“I hit the ball really nicely today, probably struck it much better than yesterday but I didn’t make as many putts,” Scott told Golf Channel after posting a 14-under 130 total.
“It was a good solid round. I was never really out of position (apart from the first hole) and I managed my game pretty well. It’s all kind of coming together, the work I’ve been doing.”
Italian Francesco Molinari (70) and Americans J.B. Holmes (69) and Chesson Hadley (68) are in a distant tie for second on seven-under.
Scott, widely regarded as the best driver in the game, showed why he is so highly rated as he split fairway after fairway, hitting only two poor drives all day, at the first and ninth holes.
He shrugged off a sore throat and chest congestion to compile six birdies and two bogeys, including a dropped shot for the second successive day at the par-four 18th.
The finish was disappointing for Scott, who notched up his first three-putt of the week when he lipped-out a five-footer, the shortest putt he has missed in two days.
Nonetheless, he was hardly going to let that small blemish take the gloss off a round that only one player bettered on the demanding water-lined layout.
Scott said that not feeling well might even have helped, because it prompted him to play within himself.
“Sometimes it’s not a bad thing,” he continued. “I‘m not bouncing around out there. I‘m trying to make decisions on the simplest shot I can possibly hit and not ask too much of myself and it’s done well so far, so I’ll try and keep that in mind tomorrow.”
Barring a weekend collapse, Scott will go into the April 10-13 Masters as the world number one.
He currently is ranked second behind Tiger Woods, who is not defending his Bay Hill title due to back spasms.
Neither Scott nor Woods will play again before Augusta, and due to the vagaries of the ranking system, Woods will remain on top for at least two more weeks.
But if Scott wins at Bay Hill, he will take over top spot the week of the Masters.
Reporting By Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina,; Editing by Gene Cherry