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Rory McIlroy in love with golf again ahead of Augusta challenge

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods slipped back in the second round of the US PGA Tour Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Rory McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational
Rory McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational

RORY MCILROY SAYS he has rediscovered his love for golf as he takes on a hectic schedule in preparation for next month’s Masters.

McIlroy missed the cut at the Valspar Championship last week but had no such problems at the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Friday, as the Northern Irishman carded a two-under 70 to move to five under for the tournament through 36 holes, six strokes behind leaders Henrik Stenson and Bryson DeChambeau.

This week’s event at Bay Hill marks McIlroy’s seventh tournament in nine weeks and he will also contest the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play next week as he attempts to find his best form ahead of the challenge posed by Augusta, where his best finish is fourth in 2015.

Speaking after his second round in Florida, McIlroy said: “I definitely don’t feel like I’ve got stale or in any way frustrated or feel like it’s tedious playing all these weeks in a row or monotonous in any way.

“I like being out here, I like playing golf, and I feel like over the last couple of months of 2017 into this year I sort of rediscovered my love for the game a little bit. I’m even enjoying playing casual rounds of golf more.”

Of Friday’s round, which saw him post five birdies and three bogeys, McIlroy added: “It was okay, but it was a little scrappier today than it was yesterday.

“A few more missed greens, or felt like that anyway, but my short game was good, my putting was good, and I played the par-fives a little bit better.

“It was still not quite the way I wanted to, but I would have been pleased if it was something in the 60s and shooting 70 is okay.

“To birdie four, five and six was nice, so that was better. It’s been much better this week, so I’m happy with that.

“I feel good, I’m six behind, but Henrik’s played great and I’m going to have to play very, very good golf on the weekend to catch him. But I’m in a better position this Friday than I was last Friday, so I’ll take anything I can get.”

The Masters is the only major to have eluded McIlroy, who collapsed after leading the event by four strokes going into the final round in 2011.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson birdied three consecutive holes and clung to a share of the lead Friday as Tiger Woods slipped back in the second round of the US PGA Tour Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Stenson, the 2016 British Open champion and 2017 Rio Olympics runner-up, fired a bogey-free three-under par 69 to stand alongside American Bryson DeChambeau on 11-under 133 after 36 holes at Bay Hill.

Woods, a 14-time major winner and eight-time champion at the Orlando layout, opened and closed the front nine with bogeys but rallied late to shoot a level-par 72 and stand on 140 after 36 holes as he works to find consistent top form ahead of next month’s Masters.

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