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Golf: Hoffman leads at Bay Hill after learning of grandmother’s passing

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Morgan Hoffmann’s day began with news that his 97-year-old grandmother died Thursday morning. It ended with his first lead on the PGA Tour.

Hoffman began his round with a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 10 and finished it with a 9-iron that touched the hole before stopping inches away for birdie. He also holed a bunker shot for eagle on the par-5 sixth, leading to a 6-under 66 and a one-shot lead in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

It all was a lot to chew on for the 25-year-old Hoffmann, who cooks his own meals to eat on the golf course (bison steak was for lunch Thursday).

“Mentally, I’m in kind of a weird state right now,” he said. “My grandma passed away this morning, so I’m just pretty chilled out there and loving life right now. Just wish my family the best at home. My whole family texted me and said, ‘Nanny is playing golf with pop up there,’ which was pretty cool.”

Hoffmann hopes to attend a memorial service for Dorothy Lionetti in Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday night. It should be a short trip considering Hoffmann pilots his own plane that he recently bought from his buddy David Booth, who plays left wing for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Not to be forgotten was his golf. He had a one-shot lead over five players, including Ian Poulter and Kevin Na. The group at 68 included Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson and Brandt Snedeker.

Rory McIlroy hit 17 greens in regulation in his Bay Hill debut and one-putted only two greens, including a 15-foot birdie on the 18th for a 70.

In his third American event this year, the world’s No. 1 player still hasn’t broken 70. But he’s getting there.

“Seeing signs of my game that I like,” McIlroy said. “Another three days of hopefully solid golf and try and get into contention, and that will put me in a good place going into Augusta.”

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