Date: March 15, 2008

Jones seven off Singh

Matt Jones is seven shots adrift of leader and defending champion Vijay Singh after two rounds at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando. Jones shot a two-under par round of 68 to be tied in 20th position with eight other competitors at the halfway point of the tournament on two under. Birdies at the 2nd, 6th, 9th, 12th and 14th holes by the Australian were tempered by bogeys at the 4th, 8th and 10th. Meanwhile, Singh said he was pleased with his consistency after he opened up a two-stroke lead. The 45-year-old, back to full health after a severe bout of apparent food poisoning, took advantage of benign morning conditions with a sizzling five-under-par 65 second round at Bay Hill. “I hit the ball really good off the tee, gave myself a lot of birdie chances and also helped by chipping in twice as well,” said the Fijian. “I&aposm not doing anything special, not doing too much wrong either, just cruising along.” It saw him post a nine-under-par 131 halfway total, with Swede Carl Pettersson (65) alone in second place, and Lee Westwood (68), Jim Furyk (67) and Ken Duke (67) three strokes behind in a tie for third. Westwood drove the ball nicely to stay in the hunt for only his second American victory, his previous success coming 10 years ago in New Orleans. He is back in the sort of form that made him one of the best in the world a decade ago, before a dire slump sent him plummeting all the way to 266th in the world rankings. “I&aposve just carried on the form I built up at the end of last year in Europe and Asia, and the start of the year in the Middle East,” he said. “There&aposs no reason I shouldn&apost carry that form on just because the tournament is in the States.” “I hit one bad drive but was never really in too much trouble all day. I just didn&apost hit my iron shots close enough to the flags often enough.” Tiger Woods, seeking to win his sixth consecutive official start, did not help his cause with a 70 that left him seven strokes adrift. “I&aposll have to play better and make a lot more putts,” he lamented. “I never got the speed of these things today, kept leaving them short. “I wasn&apost swinging the club very well (either) and when I did put myself in position to make a putt, I didn&apost make them.” Singh is somewhat fortunate even to be playing, after his sickness last week. He thinks he contracted a “stomach virus” at the Johnnie Walker Classic in India, although it did not strike until he arrived back at his Florida home. “I tried to eat clean and drink bottled water and it didn&apost work,” he said. “I came back on Monday and never left the bathroom for four days. It&aposs not nice but I got over it.” Singh was so dehydrated at one stage that he went to hospital, where he was hooked up to an intravenous drip. He said his weight plunged from about 216 to 196 pounds, although he appears to have quickly put some of that back on. “I thought I was going to pull out of this tournament but on Friday I started to (feel a little better),” he continued. “Some guys say it&aposs good to take four days off from playing, but I just could not do anything.” Singh is realistic enough to know his best golf is probably behind him, but he is highly motivated to have one more great season. Singh&aposs closest challenger Pettersson has made a slow start to the year, but that is usual for a guy who, whether he likes it or not, rarely plays well in the winter. “I usually get off to a slow start every year,” he said. “I was hoping this year would be different but it wasn&apost. I&aposm probably going to play better as the year goes on.” He made a dream start with birdies at his first three holes and added three more on his back nine, a solitary bogey the only blemish on his card. Geoff Ogilvy is the next best-placed Aussie behind Jones on one-over par. Second Round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational (Par 70): -9: Vijay Singh 66 65 -7: Carl Pettersson 68 65 -6: Lee Westwood 66 68, Ken Duke 67 67, Jim Furyk 67 67 -5: Cliff Kresge 67 68, J J Henry 65 70, Tom Lehman 66 69, Vaughan Taylor 68 67 -4: Chad Campbell 68 68, Bart Bryant 68 68, Bubba Watson 67 69, DA Points 68 68, Nick Watney 69 67, Sergio Garcia 70 66 -3: Niclas Fasth 71 66, Trevor Immelman 73 64, Alex Cejka 67 70, Dustin Johnson 68 69 -2: JB Holmes 71 67, John Rollins 70 68, Woody Austin 71 67, Tim Clark 68 70, Pat Perez 73 65, Tiger Woods 70 68, Ben Crane 70 68, Fred Couples 65 73, Matt Jones (Australia) 70 68 Also: 1: Geoff Ogilvy (Australia) 72 69 2: Steve Elkington (Australia) 74 68, John Senden (Australia) 70 72 4: Nathan Green (Australia) 73 71 5: Peter Lonard (Australia) 72 73, Matthew Goggin (Australia) 75 70 6: Stuart Appleby (Australia) 72 74 7: Richard Green (Australia) 75 72 9: Jason Day (Australia) 74 75 15: Rod Pampling (Australia) 78 77