Golf: McIlroy clings to Honda Classic clubhouse lead

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a shot during the second round of The Honda Classic at PGA National Resort and Spa on Feb 28, 2014 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. -- PHOTO: AFP
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays a shot during the second round of The Honda Classic at PGA National Resort and Spa on Feb 28, 2014 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. -- PHOTO: AFP

PALM BEACH GARDENS, United States (AFP) - Rory McIlroy held a one-stroke clubhouse lead over Brendon de Jonge during Friday's second round of the US PGA Honda Classic while top-ranked Tiger Woods struggled to make the cut.

McIlroy held his nerve after two early birdies to finish with a flourish, firing a four-under par 66 that left the 24-year-old world number eight from Northern Ireland on 11-under 129 through 36 holes at PGA National.

Zimbabwe's De Jonge fired a 64 but a closing bogey kept him from a share of the midway lead, leaving him on 130 at the $6 million event with players still on the back nine.

American Russell Henley was third in the clubhouse on 132 with England's Lee Westwood and Scotsman Russell Knox another shot back with Welshman Jamie Donaldson and American Ryan Palmer on 134 through 36 holes.

Woods, a 14-time major champion who has not won a major since the 2008 US Open, was clinging to the cutline on the number at level par for the event, one-under for the day, through 15 holes.

Woods, who opened with a 71, needed to snap a streak of five rounds at par or worse at PGA National to reach the weekend.

McIlroy teed off on the back nine and found the right rough off the 11th tee on his way to a bogey. Going over the 12th green led to another bogey.

But McIlroy turned around the day with a five-foot birdie putt at the 16th and a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-5 18th.

"It was a sign of maturity," McIlroy said. "I didn't panic. I didn't try to do anything differently. I tried to keep doing everything that I had been doing." On his second nine, McIlroy ran off three birdies in a row starting at the par-5 third, where he left a 53-foot eagle putt inches short for a tap-in birdie.

- Woods, Mickelson struggle - ============================= McIlroy made a 30-foot birdie putt at the par-3 fifth and a 27-footer for birdie at the par-3 seventh, his third and fourth successful putts this week of longer than 25 feet.

McIlroy, a two-time major champion, won the event in 2012 to become a world number one for the first time in his career, but last year walked off the course complaining of toothache and mental fatigue.

This week, he has reclaimed the form that launched him to the top of the golf world.

"One of the goals this year for me was consistency," McIlroy said. "It's quite emotionally draining when you have all these highs and lows." De Jonge also began at the 10th tee and birdied his first three holes, added another at 14 and birdied the par-5 18th and third as well despite finding a greenside bunker on the former and the rough on his second shot at the latter.

De Jonge sank an 11-foot birdie putt at the fifth, found a bunker off the sixth tee on the way to a bogey, sank a 23-foot birdie putt at eight but was short of the green on his approach at 18 and rolled a 27-foot par putt inches past the cup.

Woods tapped in a three-foot birdie putt at the third but found the dirt at the fourth on the way to a bogey. He bounced back with a 10-foot birdie putt at the ninth but made bogey at 11, finding the rough off the tee and missing the green with his third shot.

But Woods saved par at 12 by putting a bunker chip two feet from the cup and then sank a 44-foot birdie putt at the 13th to move inside the cut line.

Reigning British Open champion Phil Mickelson fired a 71 to stand on 141, putting the US left-hander just the wrong side of the projected cut line.

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