• Honda Classic

What a difference a year makes for McIlroy

ESPN staff
February 27, 2014
What a difference a year makes: Rory McIlroy leads at the Honda classic © Getty Images

Rory McIlroy birdied his final two holes on Thursday to complete a flawless 7-under 63 to take the lead at the Honda Classic.

It was quite a turnaround for McIlroy, who last year was 7-over through eight holes of the second round when he walked off PGA National, citing wisdom tooth pain. He looked more like the free-wheeling kid who won this tournament two years ago to rise to world No.1.

McIlroy rolled home a 30-foot birdie putt at the second and tapped in at the par-five third to pick up another shot. He then birdied three in a row from the 10th and added another with a 15-foot putt at the par-three 17th.

He found a bunker with his approach to 18, but splashed out to inside five feet and sank the putt.

"I was in control of my ball all day," McIlroy said. "I didn't miss many fairways. I didn't miss many greens. I gave myself plenty of chances for birdies and I was able to take a few."

McIlroy ended the day one shot clear of Russell Henley, who birdied five of his opening six holes before cooling.

Tiger Woods is eight back of McIlroy, after admitting he has one eye on The Masters.

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