Rory McIlroy hailed a “big improvement” in his putting after a superb 65 lifted him into contention for a third WGC title in the Cadillac Championship at Doral.
McIlroy had finished third, sixth and 20th in his first three events of 2016 before a missed cut in the Honda Classic last week prompted him to switch to a “crosshanded” putting method he last used in 2008.
The 26-year-old needed 33 putts in his opening 71 but just 25 on Friday in carding eight birdies and one bogey to finish eight under par alongside defending champion Dustin Johnson, two behind former world number one Adam Scott.
McIlroy, who single-putted nine of the first 12 greens, told Sky Sports: “I felt like I struck the ball well yesterday, I just did not have the pace on the greens and that’s to be expected when you go to a new grip and are thinking more about technique than speed and feel.
“I did a bit of work on the putting green last night and it paid off today.”
After a birdie on the first was cancelled out by a bogey on the second, McIlroy birdied four holes in a row from the fifth to reach the turn in 32, before saving par from seven and nine feet on the 10th and 11th.
The world number three then birdied the 12th, 15th and 18th to keep Scott firmly in his sights, the Australian carding a 66 in pursuit of back-to-back wins following his victory in the Honda Classic on Sunday.
Speaking about his birdie from 19 feet on the 18th, McIlroy added: “I saw Adam had got to 10 (under) so I did not want to be too far behind going into the weekend. It’s great to see putts like that go in. Those are the putts I have not been holing over the last few months.
“When you see putts go in you do get confidence from that. As the days go by the more comfortable this will become and the more I can think about feel and picking the right line instead of where my hands are on the grip.
“Today I saw a big improvement so I’m very happy.”
Scott was equally pleased after carding eight birdies and two bogeys in his 66, the former Masters champion responding to a dropped shot on the 14th with a hat-trick of birdies.
“I’m very happy,” Scott said. “I got off to a good start again, that’s been the key for me the last few weeks, and then maybe the wind lay down a little on the back nine and allowed me to have the chance for a few more and I hit some good shots and took advantage.”
Asked to explain a run of form which saw him finish second in the Northern Trust Open before winning last week, the world number nine added: “Everything has an effect on another part of the game and all of a sudden as I came to Honda, the swing fell right into place and that’s carried over to the rest of my game.
“That frees up the putting even more.”