Friday, December 15, 2017
Golf

McIlroy in control; Tiger hangs on

PALM BEACH GARDENS — 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.

Tiger Woods is making golf look hard.

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 (64) at 11-under 129.

"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 of his bogeys on his second and third holes, par 4s at Nos. 10 and 11. "I didn't panic. I didn't try to do anything different. Just tried to keep playing the way I was."

Woods felt fortunate to still be playing. He was over the cut line after scrambling for bogey on the 11th hole and wound up with 69 to make the cut on the number at par 140. 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."

Because 79 players made the cut, there is another cut today, to top 70 and ties.

At least Woods is playing on the weekend. Phil Mickelson isn't. Playing the Honda Classic for the first time in 12 years, he had 71 to miss the cut at 141. Also missing the cut was Henrik Stenson, No. 3 in the world, with rounds of 73-76.

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

A growing gallery in warm sunshine at PGA National on Friday saw 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 playing partner Adam Scott and had only a 6-iron into the green on the 539-yard hole.

"When you're not quite in control of your swing, your confidence can sort of go in peaks and troughs," McIlroy said. "When you hit a few good shots, your confidence can go up quite quickly, but then you hit one bad one, it can sort of go down again, and that's where I was sort of most of last year.

"Now I feel I'm happy with where my swing is, and … I have the confidence in what I'm doing."

LPGA: Karrie Webb recovered from a back-nine lapse to shoot 3-under 69 and maintain her lead at the HSBC Women's Champions after the second round in Singapore. She bogeyed Nos. 13 and 15 but finished birdie-par to reach 9-under 135 and open a two-stroke lead over Angela Stanford (69). Seminole's Brittany Lincicome (71) was 2 under.

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