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.
Tiger Woods is making it 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.
“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.”
Because 79 players made the cut, there will be another cut to top 70 and ties today. 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 and 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.
SINGAPORE — Australia’s Karrie Webb opened a two-stroke lead in the HSBC Women’s Champions, shooting a 3-under 69 to reach 9 under on Sentosa’s Serapong Course.
The 39-year-old Hall of Famer won the Women’s Australian Open two weeks ago for her 40th LPGA Tour career. She won the 2011 event at Tanah Merah.
Angela Stanford, the 2012 winner at Tanah Merah, was second after a 69. Taiwan’s Teresa Lu was 6 under after a 70. Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist, the LPGA Thailand winner last week, had a 67 to top the group at 4 under.
By wire sources