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.”
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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 the top 70 and ties on Saturday. Woods missed the 54-hole cut the last time he played on the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines.
But at least he’s still playing. That wasn’t the case for Phil Mickelson. Playing in 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 73-76.
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, a nonwinner 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 had a bogey on No. 9, final hole of the round.
Russell Henley had a 68 and was three shots behind.
Gig Harbor’s Kyle Stanley missed the cut at 5-over 145.
• For all the talk of the youth movement in women’s golf, Karrie Webb showed that experienced players can still show up their younger competitors.
The 39-year-old Webb recovered from two bogeys on the back nine to card a 3-under 69 and open a two-stroke lead over 36-year-old Angela Stanford after the second round of the HSBC Women’s Champions. Webb was at 9-under 135 overall.
• Ross Fisher of England stormed home with an eagle-birdie-birdie-par finish to grab a one-shot lead after the second round of the Tshwane Open in Centurion, South Africa.