Rory McIlroy overcomes sticky start to stay out in front

Rory McIlroy during his second round
Rory McIlroy during his second round

Rory McIlroy continued to lead the field at the Honda Classic with a second-round 66 giving him a one-shot lead over Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge.

Among the early starters in Palm Beach, the Holywood golfer recovered from two bogeys in his opening three holes to sink six birdies and move to 11 under for the tournament.

That saw McIlroy, who held a one-shot lead at the end of the opening day stay ahead of de Jonge with Russell Henley two shots further back on eight under.

McIlroy was struggling for form this time last year, but put his success in Florida down to regaining his confidence.

“When you hit a few good shots, your confidence can go up quite quickly but then you hit one bad one, it can sort of go down again and that’s where I was sort of most of last year,” he said.

“Now I feel I’m happy with where my swing is, and even if I do hit a loose shot, I can get over it much quicker and much easier because I have the confidence in what I’m doing.”

Reflecting on Friday’s round, McIlroy added: “You know you’re going to make bogeys on this golf course, and you have to take your medicine at times.

“But I knew I would have a few chances as the round progressed to get shots back.”

Graeme McDowell, who announced on Friday that he will become a father in August, carded a three under 67 to comfortably make it through to the weekend but Darren Clarke bowed out.

England’s Lee Westwood mixed six birdies with one bogey for a second-round 65 to sit seven under, four shots behind McIlroy.

Meanwhile, on the European Tour, Michael Hoey remains in contention at the Tshwane Open in South Africa after carding a second round 65 on Friday. Hoey sunk seven birdies in a row on his back nine, but finished his second round three shots behind leader Ross Fisher.

Having turned at the Copperleaf Golf & Country Estate on level par for his round, Hoey recorded birdies from the 10th to the 16th holes. The 34-year-old was one of eight players to shoot 65, the low round of the day, including England’s Fisher.

Fisher’s seven under par round of 65 moved the Englishman to 13 under par, one stroke clear of Denmark’s Morten Ørum Madsen.

Gareth Maybin missed the cut by five shots after a 71 left him lagging on two over. Kevin Phelan is three shots behind Hoey on seven under after a 69 with Shane Lowry the only other Irish player to make the cut on five under after a 71.