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McIlroy clings to PGA lead while Tiger makes cut

“I had to stay patient. I didn’t get off to the best start,” the Northern Irish golfer said.

Rory McIlroy hits out of a sand trap on the 13th hole during the second round of the Honda Classic golf tournament.
Rory McIlroy hits out of a sand trap on the 13th hole during the second round of the Honda Classic golf tournament.

A STRONG FINISH helped Rory McIlroy grab a one-stroke lead over Brendon de Jonge after Friday’s second round of the Honda Classic while top-ranked Tiger Woods barely made the cut.

McIlroy held his nerve after two early bogeys to finish with a flourish, firing a four-under par 66 that left the 24-year-old world number eight from Northern Ireland on 11-under 129 through 36 holes at the $6 million US PGA event.

“I had to stay patient. I didn’t get off to the best start,” McIlroy said. “Got it back to even par at the turn and played really well coming in. Once I found my rhythm and got into it I played really nicely and putted very well.”

Zimbabwe’s De Jonge fired a 64 but a closing bogey kept him from a share of the lead at the $6 million event.

American Russell Henley was third on 132 with England’s Lee Westwood and Scotsman Russell Knox another shot back.

Woods, a 14-time major champion, fired a 69 to stand on par 140, making the cut on the number after snapping a streak of five rounds at par or worse at PGA National.

“It was a grind, no doubt about that,” Woods said. “I didn’t hit it very good. It was just one of those days but I fought through it.

“I would like to hit it better than I have been. I didn’t hit it good today. But I fought out a number, which is always a good thing.

“Maybe I can go post a number tomorrow.”

McIlroy teed off on the back nine and found the right rough off the 11th tee and went over the 12th green on his way to bogeys.

But McIlroy made a five-foot birdie putt at the 16th and a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-5 18th.

“It was a sign of maturity,” McIlroy said. “I didn’t panic. I didn’t try to do anything differently. I tried to keep doing everything that I had been doing.”

On his second nine, McIlroy ran off three birdies in a row starting at the par-5 third, where he left a 53-foot eagle putt inches short for a tap-in birdie.

McIlroy made a 30-foot birdie putt at the par-3 fifth and a 27-footer for birdie at the par-3 seventh, his third and fourth successful putts this week of longer than 25 feet.

McIlroy, a two-time major champion, won the event in 2012 to become a world number one for the first time in his career, but last year walked off the course complaining of toothache and mental fatigue.

So far, he has reclaimed prime form.

“One of the goals this year for me was consistency,” McIlroy said. “It’s quite emotionally draining when you have all these highs and lows.”

De Jonge began at 10 and with three birdies, added another at 14 and birdied the par-5 18th and third.

He sank an 11-foot birdie putt at the fifth, found a bunker off the sixth tee on the way to a bogey, sank a 23-foot birdie putt at eight but was short of the green at 18 and made bogey.

Woods followed a tap-in birdie at three with a bogey at four then made a 10-foot birdie putt at nine only to bogey 11, finding the rough off the tee and missing the green with his third shot.

But Woods saved par at 12 by sticking a bunker shot two feet from the cup and then holed a 44-footer from just off the green for birdie at the 13th. Parring his way to the clubhouse was good enough to keep him in the hunt.

Reigning Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia fired a 69 to stand on 137, eight shots off the pace.

Reigning British Open champion Phil Mickelson fired a 71 to stand on 141, putting the US left-hander just the wrong side of the line.

- © AFP, 2014

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