Leishman, McIlroy in mix at Palmer event

Former winner Marc Leishman sits just three shots off the pace after 36 holes at the US PGA Tour's Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida.

MARC LEISHMAN.
MARC LEISHMAN. Picture: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Australian Marc Leishman says being chosen as an Arnold Palmer Invitational ambassador is his inspiration to grab a second victory at Florida's Bay Hill course, having fired his way into weekend contention.

The 2017 winner at the brutish Orlando course was just one of seven players to post a round in the 60s during a windy second round.

Leishman's 69 left him at four-under-par and just three shots behind co-leaders Tyrrell Hatton (69) and Sung Kang (68), while New Zealand's Danny Lee (67) posted the round of the day to sit a shot back.

World No.1 and 2018 Palmer champion, Rory McIlroy, dropped a shot with a 73.

But his five-under total has him poised for a run at a second Palmer victory.

"I think if I shoot two scores in the 60s and get myself to double digits under par ... I'll have a really good chance," McIlroy said.

World No.21 Leishman says he was blown away when he found out last year he was selected as an ambassador for the tournament created by the late Palmer.

"He was a special man and just to be put in the conversation is an honour," Leishman said of the seven-time major champion.

"It would be nice to be up there at the trophy ceremony on Sunday collecting it again."

Leishman believes the lightning-fast greens at Bay Hill are an excellent test with the Masters at Augusta National just five weeks away.

"These greens are very Augusta-like; they are quick, firm and the rough's long," he said.

"It's hard but I enjoy tough golf courses, so I'm enjoying it out there."

Matt Jones (one-under) was the only other Australian to make the cut, with Jason Day and Adam Scott fizzling.

Day withdrew injured citing a troubled back, walking off the course after just four holes.

His Masters campaign is now in doubt having struggled with back injuries throughout 2019.

Scott showed fighting spirit with a creditable, even-par 72, but his five-over total saw him miss the cut by two shots.


AAP