Henrik Stenson, Bryson DeChambeau share 36-hole lead at Bay Hill

Tiger Woods is seven shots off the lead after a level-par second-round 72 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Florida.

Stenson, who had chances to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational two of the last three years, fought through a rugged stretch with par saves and made three birdies after the turn for a 3-under 69 on Friday. PGA Tour rookie Talor Gooch had five birdies on the back nine for a 70 and was two shots behind.

"I can't really ask for much more". McIlroy was six shots back, which felt like a little bit more considering the way Stenson is playing.

But Woods responded with birdies on three of the next four holes, sinking a four-footer at the par-5 fourth and a three-footer at the par-5 sixth. Birdies at the 16th and 18th finished off the Northern Irishman's best round on the PGA Tour this season.

"They were so young when I was playing well that they don't remember any of it", Woods said. Rory McIlroy was slowed again, this time with a pair of bogeys to start his back nine, though he could accept a 70.

The Co Down man (28) holed 110-feet of putts on the slickest greens seen on the USA circuit this year, rattling in eight putts between six and 25 feet en route to a two-under 70. "I'm going to have to play very, very good golf on the weekend to catch him, but I'm in a better position this Friday than I was last Friday, so I'll take anything I can get".

McIlroy shot weekend rounds of 65 and 69 past year to finish in a tie for fourth, two behind victor Marc Leishman.

Four players are at eight-under 208, including Rickie Fowler, who posted a two-under 70 that featured six birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey on his final hole of the day.

Like most of the day, Woods was unable to get a putt to drop on the 18th after a mammoth 3-wood liner off the tee that left him just 150 yards in.

It was clear early that this would be a struggle, especially when he ran a putt off the green and onto the fringe at No. 9 for this second bogey.

The disappointment was his wedge play. It's just the first day.

Woods trailed after 36 holes in four of his eight victories at Bay Hill, including a seven-shot deficit in 2008.

McIlroy's putting was noticeably better than in recent weeks and the four-time major victor told Sky Sports: "That's been a huge improvement over the first two days".

  • Stacy Allen