ORLANDO, Fla. - Bay Hill provided a few dramatic turnarounds Friday, which was good news for Henrik Stenson, though not so much for Phil Mickelson.
Through it all, Keegan Bradley and Tommy Fleetwood kept a steady march of solid golf going and wound up tied for the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, four shots clear of anyone else going into the weekend on a course that has been tough all week.
Fleetwood used two new clubs to produce two eagles, which carried him to a 6-under-par 66. Bradley, with the renewed confidence of a player who last year ended six years without a PGA Tour victory, made all but one of his six birdies on the par 4s and had a 68.
They were at 9-under 135, the highest score to lead this event through 36 holes since 2013.
The group tied for third included former Baylor School and University of Georgia golfer Keith Mitchell, who won the Honda Classic this past Sunday for his first PGA Tour victory. Mitchell shot a 68 and was joined at 5 under by Billy Horschel (71), Kevin Kisner (69), Francesco Molinari (70), Roger Sloan (69) and Jhonattan Vegas (70).
Another Baylor graduate, Luke List, was tied for 31st at 2 under after a 72. Former Red Raiders standout Harris English (69) made the cut on the number at 1 over and was tied for 62nd.
As for that 2013 event at Bay Hill, Tiger Woods wound up winning that year, which won't be the case this time - he is at home, nursing a sore neck. That also was the last time Mickelson was at Bay Hill, and this trip lasted only two days.
Mickelson hit a pair of horrific drives - one out of bounds, another into water he couldn't see off the tee at No. 8 - that led to double bogeys. With only one birdie on his card, Mickelson was 10 shots worse than his opening round and posted a 78. He missed the cut by one shot.
"It's a penalizing course if you don't hit very good shots, and I hit some terrible shots today," Mickelson said. "That's probably the score I deserved."
On the other side was Stenson, who opened with a 77 and then headed to the range with swing coach Pete Cowen. The former British Open champion responded with a 66, an 11-shot improvement that left him eight shots behind, though still with a tee time for the third round.
Even with a four-shot advantage, Bradley and Fleetwood have to be concerned with more than themselves in the final group. Bradley would know from experience. He was eight shots behind going into the weekend in 2014 and was the runner-up by one shot, mainly courtesy of Adam Scott's troubled weekend.
Fleetwood, a three-time winner on the European Tour, is ready to take the next step by winning in America, and he looked up to the task.
Rory McIlroy, trying to repeat as champion, made a little headway with a 70, leaving him seven shots behind.
"The golf course is hard," said McIlroy, who won last year at 18-under 270, "Two under is in the top 20. Last year it got firm on the weekend. But the weekend conditions came early - cold weather at the start of the week, and it's dry. It's probably more of a test off the tee than the last few weeks.
"If I hit fairways on the weekend, I'll feel like I've got a good chance."
Scott McCarron, Fran Quinn lead at Hoag Classic
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. - Scott McCarron closed with a birdie in windy conditions for a 7-under 64 and a share of the first-round lead with Fran Quinn in the PGA Tour Champions' Hoag Classic.
McCarron rebounded from a bogey on the par-4 16th with the birdie on the par-5 18th at Newport Beach Country Club in wind at 20 to 25 mph.
"Every hole plays crosswind just the way this golf course is set up, and with this wind, it's tough," McCarron said. "You've got to really change your start lines off the tee and be able to control the trajectory of the golf ball. I did that very well today."
McCarron has eight victories on the 50-and-older circuit after winning three PGA Tour titles. He tied for second last year at this event, a stroke behind Vijay Singh, who is playing the Arnold Palmer Invitational instead this year.
Quinn finished with a bogey on the par-4 ninth. Winless on the senior tour, he birdied seven of his first 11 holes.
Doug Garwood opened with a 66, and Billy Andrade, Corey Pavin and David Toms were tied for fourth at 67.
Chattanooga's Gibby Gilbert III was tied for 61st after opening with a 75.
Trio on top at Qatar Masters
DOHA, Qatar - South Africa's George Coetzee and Justin Harding and France's Mike Lorenzo-Vega shared the lead at the Qatar Masters after each shot a 4-under 68 for the second straight round.
They were at 8-under 176 overall, and there were 12 golfers within two shots of them heading into the weekend at Doha Golf Club.
"I'm just happy to be playing some better golf," said Coetzee, who has four top-10 finishes at the tournament but has never won. "I guess I made a bit of a mind switch and started focusing a little bit more on what's going on at the moment instead of where I want to be in a couple of years. I was in contention seven years ago and I still haven't won this thing, so I guess I don't know the magic recipe but I'll be looking for it over the weekend."
Lorenzo-Vega, who played in the day's opening group, made five birdies and a bogey to set the early pace. Harding also had five birdies and a bogey, while Coetzee played a bogey-free round.
First round co-leader Adri Arnaus of Spain (70) was tied for fourth at 7 under with Japan's Masahiro Kawamura, South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen and England's Oliver Wilson, who each shot a 68.