March 17, 2017: As memories of Arnold Palmer hung over Bay Hill, Emiliano Grillo and Matthew Fitzpatrick worked their way to a one shot lead over Lucas Glover, Paul Casey and Charley Hoffman. Jason Day made two under 70, while Rory McIlroy settled for a 74. The lights were on Sam Saunders, grandson of the King, who departed on 25th September last year. Saunders survived a day of heavy emotion with a 74. Anirban Lahiri also endured an emotional day at Bay Hill to post a 79. He will need to work hard to make the weekend.
The 16th tee was a favourite spot for Palmer, who would motor around the course on his cart. The cart was sitting vacant at the same spot on Thursday. Saunders was naturally soaked in emotion as he reached there.
“I started thinking about all the years that I’ve played in the tournament, and I just started thinking about him driving around in the cart and watching me,” Saunders said. “And just to see it sitting there empty; yeah, that’s hard. I think we all feel that. I had my emotional moment, looked at it, and then got my head where it needed to be to play the next hole.”
Emiliano Grillo had a poor start, conceding a pair of bogeys. But he bounced back in style, producing a sizzling run of seven birdies through the rest of the way to surge to the top. Those birdies included one from 50ft and another from 40ft.
“If I had my hands out of my pockets for a minute or two, I would be freezing,” Grillo said. “But I was able to keep it in the fairway mostly all day and I was able to make a few good putts on 9 and 17, and that kept me going.”
“And this year, it’s like I was expecting again to see him arrive at the driving range with his golf cart,” said Grillo, who saw Palmer for the first time last year at this event. “They did some spectacular job this year honoring him. Everybody’s wearing umbrella — I have the umbrella on my sweater today — and everybody is carrying the name of Arnold Palmer with great honor.”