McIlroy (66) stays in front Friday at Honda Classic

By Doug FergusonFebruary 28, 2014, 7:42 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Golf is starting to feel easy again for Rory McIlroy, who bounced back from a sloppy start Friday in the Honda Classic for a 4-under 66 that gave him his first 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour in 18 months.

McIlroy recovered from two early bogeys by running off six birdies in a 10-hole stretch. He looked solid from tee-to-green, hit putts with growing confidence and wound up with a one-shot lead over Brendon de Jonge.

''I knew that with the way I'm playing and the confidence in my ability, I would be able to get those shots back,'' McIlroy said. ''I didn't panic. I didn't try to do anything different. Just tried to keep playing the way I was.''

He was at 11-under 129.

Woods felt fortunate to still be playing. He was over the cut line after scrambling for a bogey on the 11th hole and wound up with a 69 to make the cut on the number. Woods hit only two greens over his last nine holes. His lone birdie on the back nine was a chip-in on the 13th after he missed the green with a wedge.

''It was a grind, there's no doubt about it,'' Woods said. ''I didn't hit it very good. Just one of those days where I fought out a number, which was good.''


Honda Classic: Articles, videos and photos


Because 79 players made the cut, there will be another cut to top 70 and ties on Saturday. Woods missed the 54-hole cut the last time he played on the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines.

And at least he's still playing the weekend. That wasn't the case for Phil Mickelson. Playing the Honda Classic for the first time in 12 years, he had a 71 to miss the cut. So did Henrik Stenson, the No. 3 player in the world, with rounds of 73-76.

McIlroy knew the feeling a year ago, when he took a steep fall from No. 1 in the world while changing equipment and trying to live up to high expectations, leading to his snap decision to walk off the course after 26 holes last year at the Honda Classic.

A growing gallery in warm sunshine at PGA National saw a familiar game – the McIlroy who won the Honda Classic two years ago.

Swinging freely and putting beautifully, McIlroy hit his stride on his back nine with four birdies in five holes, including the par-5 third when he smashed a drive some 35 yards past Adam Scott and had only a 6-iron into the green on the 539-yard hole.

De Jonge, who has never won on the PGA Tour, played early in the afternoon when the wind picked up and put eight birdies on his card in a 64. He was tied for the lead when he missed the green with a wedge on No. 9 and made bogey. Even so, he'll be in the last group Saturday with McIlroy.

''I think I might have got a little bit of switch in the wind,'' de Jonge said.

Russell Henley had a 68 and was three shots behind. Russell Knox of Scotland had the low round Friday at 63 and was four shots back along with Lee Westwood (65).

But the focus is clearly on McIlroy, who each week looks to be getting better.

''This year is obviously a lot different,'' McIlroy said. ''Got off to a good start. I'm confident. I'm playing well. This is the second straight tournament I've opened with a 63, so if I can keep building on these good starts, then hopefully I can start converting.''

After a 63 in Dubai, he said he was pressing too much in the final round and wound up in a tie for ninth.

Friday was another step in the right direction, despite two errant tee shots on the 11th and 12th holes that led to bogeys. His round changed with a tee shot into 6 feet on the 16th hole for a birdie, and then a 12-foot birdie on the 18th to wrap up his front nine and earn back the two shots he had dropped.

After a 45-foot birdie attempt on the second hole rimmed all the way around and out of the cup, Boy Wonder took off. He two-putted the par-5 third. He hit a wedge into 4 feet on the next hole. He rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt down the hill at the par-5 fifth. Then, after a tough par save on the sixth, he sank another 30-foot birdie putt that McIlroy made look routine.

The gallery is kept 100 yards from the green, so the only applause came from a few marshals. It sounded like a tap-in for par. McIlroy reacted that way, too.

''Watching Rory play is amazing when he's swinging like this,'' Scott said after his own great recovery.

The Masters champ put shots in the water on the 16th and 17th holes, both times making double bogey, and it looked as though his return to golf after a six-week break would be a short one. But the Australian ran off four birdies on the front nine for a 70.

It will take a lot more to catch McIlroy, who has taken only 49 putts through two rounds.

''That's probably the lowest putting total after 36 I've probably had, maybe in my career,'' he said. ''So it's obviously going in the right direction.''

 

Getty Images

DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

Getty Images

Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Getty Images

Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

Getty Images

Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.