• Honda Classic

McIlroy shakes off demons to extend lead

Bob Harig
February 28, 2014
Rory McIlroy proved to be the main attraction during the morning starters on day two © Getty Images

So much for any haunting flashbacks.

A year to the day after walking off the PGA National course in disgust, Rory McIlroy showed again on Friday that he has moved on from perhaps the lowlight of his career, shooting a four-under-par 66 for a one-shot lead at 11 under after the second round at the Honda Classic.

McIlroy, 24, withdrew after just 27 holes here a year ago, walking to his car after making a bogey, two double-bogeys and a triple-bogey over a nine-hole stretch that had him on a pace for a score well into the 80s.

Rory's record

  • Surprisingly, McIlroy has only won two of the 13 events in which he has opened with a sub-65 round:
  • 2008 European Masters: Shot 63, finished 2nd
  • 2008 Hong Kong Open: Shot 64, finished 2nd
  • 2009 Dubai Desert Classic: Shot 64, finished 5th
  • 2009 European Masters: Shot 64, finished 7th
  • 2009 HSBC Champions: Shot 63, finished 4th
  • 2009 Hong Hong Open: Shot 64, finished 2nd
  • 2010 Open Championship: Shot 63, missed cut
  • 2010 Wells Fargo: Shot 62, finished 1st
  • 2010 Deutsche Bank: Shot 64, finished 37th
  • 2010 Hong Kong Open: Shot 63, finished 6th
  • 2011 Korea Open: Shot 64, finished 2nd
  • 2012 BMW PGA Championship: Shot 64, finished 1st
  • 2013 Deutsche Bank: Shot 64, finished 47th
  • Courtesy of golf statistician Jamie Kennedy

The incident caused considerable backlash for McIlroy, who was No.1 in the world at the time and coming off a five-victory season. Now ranked eighth, McIlroy has started to show the form that got him on top in 2012.

He added six more birdies Friday to his seven-under 63 opening-round effort and overcame a slow start in which he bogeyed two of the first three holes. He played his final 12 holes in six under. McIlroy was one stroke ahead of Brendon de Jonge, who shot a second-round 64.

"It's a different end of the spectrum," McIlroy said of the difference from a year ago. "I wasn't quite comfortable with my golf swing. I was still tinkering with equipment. I just wasn't feeling in control of what I needed to be in control of.

"This year is obviously a lot different. Got off to a good start; I'm confident; I'm playing well. This is the second straight tournament I've opened with a 63. So if I can keep building on these good starts, then hopefully I can start converting."

McIlroy shot 63 last month in Dubai and trailed leader Stephen Gallacher by just two strokes heading into the final round but closed with 74 and finished ninth. It was a disappointing ending, as McIlroy seemed primed to get his first European Tour victory in more than a year.

"I tried too hard not even just the last day, but the weekend, because I had started so well in the tournament, I felt like I should have been further ahead and I tried a little bit too hard," he said. "My course management on Sunday was probably not as good as it could have been. I should have taken a few more 3-woods off tees.

"There's a couple things I took away from that. You always try to learn week by week and try to incorporate what you've learned the week before into the next week."

Russell Henley had a 68 and was three shots behind. Russell Knox of Scotland had the low round at 63 and was four shots back along with Lee Westwood (65).

When second-round play concluded, Tiger Woods had barely made the cut, shooting a 69 to advance to the weekend.

Phil Mickelson wasn't as fortunate, missing the cut after shooting a 71 on Friday to finish at one-over. Neither did Henrik Stenson, the No.3 player in the world, with rounds of 73-76. Welshman Jamie Donaldson added a 69 to his opening round 65 to move to six-under par and make it four Britons in the top six. Luke Donald added a 68 to his opening 67 to head a group of nine players at four-under par.

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Bob Harig is a senior golf writer for ESPN.com

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