ORLANDO, Fla. – Emiliano Grillo is glad to be back in the Sunshine State, even though Thursday’s conditions at the Arnold Palmer Invitational hardly resembled a Florida morning in mid-March.
Grillo began his opening round at Bay Hill at 8:23 a.m., when temperatures dipped below 40 degrees. He struggled with the early conditions, making bogeys on two of his first four holes, but added seven birdies the rest of the way. His 5-under 67 was three shots clear of the next best score among the morning wave.
“It was more like British weather out there, very tough conditions,” Grillo said. “The first four holes were really difficult keeping warm, even after that it was a bit warmer but I couldn’t feel my hands. If I had my hands out of my pockets for a minute or two, I would be freezing.”
Relative to his form last season, Grillo has been in a bit of a rut ever since a last-place showing at the Hero World Challenge in December. While he’s made four of his last five cuts, the Argentine’s best result this year is a T-33 finish at Torrey Pines.
But it’s hardly a cause for concern according to Grillo, as he broke out of a similar slump last year with a T-17 finish at Bay Hill and went on to win Rookie of the Year honors on the PGA Tour.
“I know that I’m not really comfortable playing on the West Coast. That’s just how my game works,” he said. “I think once we get it here to the Florida swing, my game starts to warm up a little bit. I felt like I played good the last two tournaments, but I just didn’t play good for four rounds. I played good for three, and out here that’s going to cost you.”
Grillo typically relies on accurate driving, but he’s struggled in recent weeks and ranks 65th on Tour in strokes gained off the tee this season. He seemed to have things straightened out during the opening round, when he hit 11 of 14 fairways including 10 of his last 11.
“I played from the fairway all day, and that makes it easier around here,” he said. “Overall, it was almost a perfect round except for two or three holes there. Given the circumstances of this morning, it was nice to see it all come together a bit today.”