Levin leads at Arnold Palmer

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, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Spencer Levin fired a six-under 66 on Thursday to take the first-round lead of a windy Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club and Lodge.

This is the third time Levin has held a piece of the first-round lead this year on tour, and he is three clear after round one.

Rickie Fowler and Hunter Mahan are tied for second at three-under 69. They both teed it up in the morning when the conditions were more benign, making Levin's afternoon 66 all the more impressive.

Tiger Woods also played in the afternoon on Thursday and fared much worse than Levin in round one.

Woods, a six-time winner of this event, missed every fairway on the front nine and missed an 11-foot par putt on the 18th for a one-over 73.

"I didn't drive it very good early," Woods said in a televised interview. "The golf course is tough. The guys played well this morning. Most of the low scores, except for Spencer this afternoon, were from the morning."

Phil Mickelson, the 1997 champion, had a good day on Thursday. He managed a two-under 70 and is in the thick of things, tied for fourth.

"I didn't probably hit it the best, I hit a few squirrelly ones, but I was able to salvage par with my short game and it was a good opening round," said Mickelson. "I'll certainly take it."

So with so many players in the afternoon struggling in the wind, just how good was Levin's round on Thursday?

"My putting was really good today," said Levin. "I didn't drive it in too much trouble. I think I missed some fairways, but not by much. I made some nice par putts, and the ones -- the shots I hit close, I took advantage of."

He began on the 10th tee Thursday and started with a three-foot birdie putt at the 10th. Levin made a 10-foot par save at the 11th to start a run of five straight pars.

At the par-five 16th, Levin drained a six-foot birdie putt, and he closed his opening nine with a 17-foot birdie putt at the 18th.

Levin missed the green at the par-three second, but chipped in to reach four- under par. Two holes later, Levin sank a five-footer for birdie to pad his lead.

At the par-five sixth, Levin missed the green right with his second, and his chip ran past the hole to the opposite fringe. He converted the 15-footer from the fringe to keep his bogey-free round going.

That streak appeared to be in jeopardy down the stretch. Levin landed in a bunker at the eighth and blasted eight feet past the stick. He made that par save, then rolled in an 11-footer for par at his last to polish off a spectacular round.

"Parred the last two when I could have bogeyed, so that was good," said Levin. "Obviously a lot better mood."

In addition to this being his third first-round lead this year on tour, Levin lost a playoff at the Mayakoba Golf Classic and tied for fourth at Pebble Beach. He's pocketed over $1 million already, but has yet to get that elusive first win.

"I'm just going to go out there and just try to do what I've been doing," said Levin. "It's easier said than done but just try not to get ahead of myself and try and deal with adversity as well as I can and then try and play well again tomorrow. So honestly, I'll just try and do my same routine, same stuff, and then hopefully I can keep playing well. That's all you can do."

Mickelson was joined in fourth by Jason Dufner, Brian Davis, Lee Janzen, Martin Laird, Bubba Watson, Chris Couch, Vaughn Taylor, Hunter Haas, Daniel Chopra and Rocco Mediate.

NOTES: Woods has failed to hit a fairway over nine holes three times the last two years...Defending champion Ernie Els shot a three-over 75 on Thursday...Reigning U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell struggled to an 80...Kenny Perry withdrew on Thursday after a 79.


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