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Rory putts in bid for World hat-trick

By Phil Casey

Rory McIlroy fired a superb seven under par 65 to roar into contention for a hat-trick of World Golf Championship titles - then hailed his new putting technique as the key to dominating the sport.

The Ulsterman showed flashes of brilliance during his first round one under 71 at Doral but last night's display was on a different level as he breezed to an eight under total, just two behind leader Adam Scott, who shot a six under 66.

The four-time major winner, who finished with an excellent birdie at the 18th, is joint second with Dustin Johnson who had a stunning eight under 64.

"I feel very comfortable with it (new putting technique). And the more time goes by, the more comfortable it will become," said McIlroy.

"I can see improvement so I am very happy.

"I have been working on my speed on the green and it has paid off.

"I have been working on my bunker play as well.

"I am very comfortable with my long game at the moment."

He continued: "I didn't want to be too far behind going into the weekend so it was great to see the putt at the 18th go in.

"When you see putts go in it gives you confidence."

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 at Doral, but it was a different story on day two as he single-putted nine of the first 12 greens.

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 holed from 10 feet to birdie the par-five 12th and improve to six under par, just two behind joint leaders Phil Mickelson and Scott, who won the Honda Classic on Sunday.

Mickelson had birdied the same four-hole stretch as McIlroy before three-putting the 13th, while Scott had gone to the turn in 33 before picking up a shot on the 12th.

With Mickelson finding water off the tee on the 15th to double bogey and Scott dropping a shot on the 14th, McIlroy's seventh birdie of the day on the 15th briefly took him into a share of the lead.

In the group behind, Scott also birdied the 15th and then drove the green on the short 16th to set up another to move to nine under, adding another birdie at the 17th.

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