ORLANDO, Fla. — He didn't miss a putt inside 15 feet. He watched good shots and answered with better ones. He ran off a string of birdies to pull away.
That's how Tiger Woods won his last tournament.
This time, he was merely a bystander.
Justin Rose has been working hard on his putting since the U.S. Open last summer, and it paid off in a big way Thursday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. After struggling at the start in chilly, breezy conditions, Rose came to life with an eagle on the 16th hole, four straight birdies on his back nine and a 7-under 65 at Bay Hill.
That gave him a two-shot lead over John Huh.
Rose took only 25 putts and he was the best in the "strokes gained" category, though most impressive about his flat stick was this: He made six birdies and an eagle, and only one of those putts was inside 10 feet.
"Not everything was perfect today," Rose said. "But the putter was really, really hot. And those are fun days when that happens."
Woods did more than just watch. He is the defending champion at Bay Hill, and a seven-time favorite, and the guy who brought out thousands of fans in the early morning chill. A win this week would return Woods to No. 1 in the world for the first time in nearly 2½ years, though he suddenly is being upon as the best in golf.
He just happened to be second-best in his group on this day.
Woods also had an eagle on the 16th hole, along with four birdies, though he lost momentum with a pair of bogeys at the turn and had his momentum stalled with another ordinary bunker shot that led to bogey. That gave him a 69, which did little to dampen his spirits.