US Masters favourite Rory McIlroy had been “really happy” with his form from tee to green during an opening 70 in the Shell Houston Open, but slipped to nine shots behind leader Sergio Garcia on Friday.
Northern Ireland star McIlroy made a flying start with birdies on the 10th and 12th and picked up another shot at the first.
However, the 24-year-old then missed from three feet for par on the third and did well to drop just one shot on the sixth, scrambling a bogey five from a greenside bunker after taking a penalty drop following a wayward tee shot.
A round of 71 left McIlroy nine shots behind Garcia on three under par, but there was much worse news for Ryder Cup team-mate Ian Poulter, who suffered an early exit from the event as he slumped to a second round of 77, five over par.
Garcia warmed up for next week’s Masters in style, following his opening 67 with five birdies and an eagle in a flawless display at the Golf Club of Houston with a superb second round of 65.