ORLANDO, FLORIDA – MARCH 08: Hideki Matsuyama of Japan plays his tee shot on the 16th hole during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard at Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Golf Course on March 08, 2024 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama relied on a trusty putter en route to a 2-under 70 and a six-way tie for the second round lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard on Friday as he maintained his chase for a unique treble of wins.

The nine-time PGA TOUR winner credited a steady putter as he stayed in title contention for back-to-back tournament victories following a rousing triumph at the Genesis Invitational three weeks.

Matsuyama will enter the weekend on 7-under, tied with fellow major champions Shane Lowry (71), Brian Harman (68), Scottie Scheffler (67) and Wyndham Clark (66), with Russell Henley (69) completing a star-studded leaderboard logjam.

Korea’s Byeong Hun An fired a 69 for tied 10th position, three off the pace, while compatriot Sungjae Im and Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan returned matching 70s to lie a further stroke back on 3-under in the US$20 million Signature Event.

Matsuyama, 32, struggled with this driver as he hit only six fairways and found 10 greens in regulation but his flat stick worked wonders as he made five birdies to be ranked fourth in Strokes Gained: Putting, gaining 2.45 strokes over the elite 69-man field.

“I feel like I’ve been putting pretty good,” said Matsuyama, who picked up birdies on Hole Nos. 3, 4, 14, 16 and 18 with his longest conversion being from 27 feet on the fourth hole. “My tee shot wasn’t great, that made it challenging. Overall, I had a good round.”

After winning the Genesis Invitational which is hosted by Tiger Woods last month with a closing 62 to add to his success at the Jack Nicklaus-hosted Memorial Tournament in 2014, Matsuyama is determined to include the Arnold Palmer Invitational in his growing collection of silverware.

He overcame some tricky winds on Friday and also has coped well with a lower back strain, although he revealed feeling some discomfort towards the end of his round. “There was a difference in the wind direction compared to yesterday. The greens were a lot faster today, so that was challenging,” said Matsuyama.

“I was playing great until the second shot on 18. So, hopefully, I get healthy for the weekend.  There’s quite a bit of treatment I’ve been doing, but I’ve been feeling healthy and hopefully, I can keep that for the next two days.”

Since breaking a tie with Korea’s K.J. Choi for most wins by an Asian golfer, Matsuyama’s confidence has soared after a relatively quiet 2023 season where he posted only one top-10.  “Ball striking-wise, there isn’t much difference compared to the week at Genesis. Chipping-wise, there’s some good chips and bad chips. Overall, I feel like my game is on point, so, hopefully, I can keep that for the weekend,” said Matsuyama, who earned his fifth career 36-hole lead/co-lead.

World No. 1 Scheffler, who has not won a tournament since last year’s THE PLAYERS Championship, charged into the joint lead with a strong finish where he was five under over his closing seven holes, which included an eagle on the par-5 13th hole.

“I think I just did a good job of staying patient, and just a great finish, I would say. I think I

was even for the round going into 12, and would have been 5-under my last seven, so yeah, just a really good finish,” said the six-time PGA TOUR winner.



Weather: Partly cloudy. High of 85. Wind SSE 7-14 mph.

Cut: 58 professionals at 3-over 147 from a field of 68 professionals and one amateur (low 50 players and ties and any additional players within 10 strokes of the 36-hole lead; six players at T53 are 10 strokes back)


Second-Round Leaderboard

Pos. Player R1 R2 Total 36-hole record*
T1 Shane Lowry 66 71 137 (-7) 1-for-2
T1 Hideki Matsuyama 67 70 137 (-7) 2-for-4
T1 Russell Henley 68 69 137 (-7) 2-for-9
T1 Brian Harman 69 68 137 (-7) 1-for-6
T1 Wyndham Clark 71 66 137 (-7) 1-for-3
T1 Scottie Scheffler 70 67 137 (-7) 2-for-11
7 Will Zalatoris 69 69 138 (-6)  

* Record with the 36-hole lead/co-lead in PGA TOUR stroke-play events

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