ORLANDO, Fla. — For such a nice, sunny (albeit blustery) day at Bay Hill, where the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational was being played Friday, there was quite a bit of carnage.
As much as this week’s tournament has been defined by who is at the top of the leaderboard through 36 holes — Tyrrell Hatton and Sung Kang lead at 7-under par and are trailed closely by Danny Lee at 6-under and Rory McIlroy, Harris English and Sungjae Im at 5-under — it is those who did not survive to the weekend who dominated the news Friday.
The 7-under lead is the highest 36-hole leading score at the API since 2010, played on a golf course in perfect condition with the difficult elements dictating — which is exactly how Arnold Palmer would have wanted it.
Friday’s second round saw the unceremonious departures of Jason Day, who withdrew with a back injury after playing just four holes, Phil Mickelson, who missed the 3-over cut by two shots, and Tommy Fleetwood, who missed the cut for the first time in 48 worldwide starts, dating back to 2018.
For Day, it was the second consecutive year he has been forced to withdraw from the event with a back injury. Last year, the Australian played only six holes in the first round before withdrawing.
Mickelson entered his final hole of the day at 3-over believing he needed a birdie to make the cut, which was 2-over at the time, and he hit his tee shot into a bunker, where he drew a plugged lie and double bogeyed the hole. The cut later moved to 3-over, meaning par on the ninth hole would have allowed him to play the weekend.
“I saw 79 guys [at 2-over or better] and the cut’s 65,’’ Mickelson said. “I didn’t see that many people falling back, so I figured I had to make a birdie and I plugged it in the bunker.’’
Fleetwood, who fell just short of his first career PGA Tour victory last week at the Honda Classic where he finished third after a final-hole bogey, flamed out with consecutive rounds of 4-over 76 to finish 8-over.
His 33 consecutive PGA Tour made cuts had been the longest active streak before Friday.
“Just a bad week, really,’’ Fleetwood said. “It was going to happen eventually. I made, what, two birdies? Two birdies and a lot of bogeys doesn’t really help. I say if you’re going to do it, do it properly and be dreadful on all fronts.”
Kang, who shot a 4-under 68, Hatton, who shot 69 and Lee, who shot the low round of the day with a 67, were anything but dreadful.
Hatton, who has won on the European Tour, is seeking his first win on the PGA Tour.
“Well, that would obviously be amazing — kind of the next step in my career,’’ Hatton said. “I’ve been fortunate to win a few times on the European Tour and obviously I’ll be trying my best this weekend to win over here.’’
McIlroy, who has the most stacked résumé among the 16 players within four shots of the lead on the board, did not make the move he expected to make Friday, shooting 73. But he remains in perfect position to pounce over the weekend.
Remarkably, Friday marked the 19th time in McIlroy’s past 20 PGA Tour rounds that he was inside the top 10 on the leaderboard.
“It was a grind,’’ he said of the day. “I think I made it more of a grind than I needed to. But … I’m still right there in the golf tournament.’’
The same cannot be said of many of the other top players in the world after a particularly stressful Friday at Bay Hill.