Rory McIlroy finds a positive spin after another tricky round
Rory McIlroy needs to raise his game to claim another Honda Classic title but the Holywood ace remains confident he can stay in the hunt.
McIlroy might feel the media makes a federal case of his putting but he didn't need the FBI to tell him he produced a solid performance on the greens to make the cut.
The 28-year-old had one of his best putting rounds of the season to survive for the weekend at a punishing PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens
After struggling with the greens on the West coast, he made eight putts between six and 12 feet, including a crucial six-footer for par at the last.
"Putting feels good," said McIlroy, who shot a second successive, two-over 72 as playing partner Pádraig Harrington headed home on 12-over after a rollercoaster 76 on another day of firm greens and swirling winds.
"I'm pretty sure I was strokes gained today on the greens. Holed some nice ones when I needed to.
"It was nice to hole that six-footer at the last to guarantee being in for the weekend.
"After the sixth hole I just needed to steady the ship and to play that front nine in even par coming in, I felt it was a pretty good effort.
"I've felt pretty good on the greens. Before, I was mentally not in the right place to make putts but in the last few weeks I feel I have learned a lot. The greens are okay but all you can do is try to find the right line and hopefully it goes in. A bit more commitment and trust helped.
"You can't really push on this golf course. The conditions are different and the course isn't so receptive. If I get it back to even par tomorrow I won't be too far away from the leaders on Sunday. If I can grind out a few scores in the 60s you never know."
Gaining in confidence on the greens, he added: "I think I've made big strides in my putting, and I'll have days like I have yesterday where I might lose a stroke to the field, but I'll have days like today where I probably gained over a shot on the field."
The proof is that McIlroy had nine single putts in yesterday's round and he insisted he's feeling less mechanical and more committed to his lines.
Had it not been for a fan's foot stopping his approach to the ninth rolling back into a bunker, McIlroy might have been left stewing on the cut line until the end of the day.
As it turned out, no serious intervention from rules officials, or the FBI agent with the group, was needed.
"That ball would have rolled back into the bunker if some guy's foot had not have been there," McIlroy said after holing his par putt to finish seven strokes behind Luke List, who shot 66 to lead in the clubhouse on three-under par.
"The guy was asking one of the FBI guys that's following our group about the rules and he goes, 'I'm a cop. I'm law enforcement, so don't be asking me'."
There was no real mystery about McIlroy's round, which started positively when he sank a 12-footer for birdie at the 10th, his first. He then knocked in testing par putts of four, six and 10 feet on the next three greens before he got caught in the Bear Trap, racking up a triple bogey six at the 182-yard 17th.
Attempting to cut a five-iron back into the crosswind, he flared it into the lake instead, then bunkered his third from the drop zone and did well to get his fourth on the green.
"I tried to play the shot that was the right one," he said of his tee-shot. "I just didn't make a good swing." It was then a case of hanging on for dear life. Graeme McDowell failed to make the cut after a second round 77 left him on seven over par.
At the European Tour's Commercial Bank Qatar Masters Darren Clarke missed the cut by ten shots after a 74.