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McIlroy finds magic touch as Day fires out warning to rivals

By Phil Casey

Rory McIlroy eased any concerns about the state of his game heading into the first major of 2016, next month's Masters, as Jason Day set an imposing clubhouse target in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Day added a flawless 65 to his opening 66 for a 13-under-par halfway total of 131, just one shot outside the tournament record shared by fellow Australian Adam Scott, Tom Watson and Andy Bean.

"It would be nice to go eight under tomorrow," joked Day, whose best score at Bay Hill before this week had been 68.

Ulsterman McIlroy, who blew a four-shot lead in the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship and carded an opening 75 here, had kept pace with Day in the group ahead for much of the round thanks to six birdies in his first 14 holes.

However, the world number two failed to birdie three of the four par fives and eventually had to settle for a 67 after dropping his only shot of the day on the seventh - his 16th hole - after missing the green off the tee.

That left McIlroy on two under par and safely inside the cut, which was projected to fall at level par.

McIlroy admitted he had been shocked by starting his first round with a double bogey after driving out of bounds, saying: "Yesterday was a weird one because last week at home I was hitting the ball so well.

"My practice sessions were really good, I was playing well and then you tee it up in your first competitive round in a week and you hit it out of bounds left. It was a bit of a shock to the system for me because I was wondering where it came from.

"I didn't really think anything of it and then a few more drives started to go left and I just need to work on it and figure it out on the range and thankfully I was able to figure it out."

McIlroy has not given up all hope of getting into contention, adding: "I need to set myself a target and try to get to that, try to emulate what he has done over the first two days."

McIlroy's fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell missed the cut after a second round four over 76 left him three over par.

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