- WGC-Cadillac Championship, Round Two
Woods wizardry tames Blue Monster as McIlroy digs in
A large chasm continued to separate Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy on an enthralling second day at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, with Woods swinging his way effortlessly to the top of the leaderboard ahead of Graeme McDowell, while McIlroy ranged from troubled soul to revived genius.
The Nike duo could barely have cut more divergent figures at times in Miami, with Woods slick and serene en route to a two-shot halfway lead on 13-under. McIlroy, meanwhile, chipped lumps of turf from the ground and rammed clubs back into his bag before a mini revival saw him recover to two-under.
And as a sub-plot to a fascinating day, Phil Mickelson signalled intent to lure Woods into one of their classic battles, while McDowell cruised under the radar to split the pair.
Current world No. 1 McIlroy is trying to turn the tide of negativity that has marked his start to 2013, with a couple of missed cuts compounded by last week's withdrawal at the Honda Classic. He began on one-over on Friday, and for a while things barely improved.
He birdied the opening hole - the par-five that the Northern Irishman had eagled the previous day - following a beautifully judged putt from the fringe that fell just short of the pin. However, a bogey at four was followed by another at six as McIlroy stabbed at a chip from the edge of the green.
The shoulders sagged further at the eighth when, faced with a relatively easy chance for eagle, McIlroy missed it by a staggering distance for a barely satisfactory birdie that took him back to one-over. The back nine played the scene of his revival though, and four birdies ensured it was a smiling figure who left the course with a three-under 69, despite a bogey at the last.
Woods had begun the day in a tie for the lead at six-under, and after a patient start he moved through the gears in a near-flawless round of golf, beginning with a birdie at the fourth. A glorious low trajectory approach to the fifth brought him back-to-back birdies and a composed putt at seven handed the American sole possession of the lead.
The Woods swing, so inconsistent in recent months, was finding its groove and another no-nonsense approach to the eighth prompted a slight fist-pump as he moved to 10-under. Each time Woods' rivals reined him in he found another birdie, and despite a bogey at 14 he posted an exceptional round of 65 laced with class.
Woods has plenty of company for the weekend though, not least compatriot Mickelson who was on fire a few holes ahead. Starting the day on five-under, "Lefty" improved to 10-under thanks to an aggressive attitude that yielded a hat-trick of birdies after the turn. Mickelson putted well and found himself unlucky with several efforts that lipped out, and he will relish the job of chasing Woods over the weekend.
"The greens are extremely hard and fast, but they roll perfectly and you can make a lot of putts," Mickelson told Sky Sports, before revealing his aim for the next two days. "I enjoy playing with Tiger, I actually play some of my best golf with him and hopefully I'll play well enough to be grouped with him in the final round."
McDowell went with Woods and Mickelson, eventually separating the pair on 11-under in second place. A run of seven consecutive pars started his round before a lovely approach to the 17th earned him his first birdie of the day. He picked up two more at one and five before closing with back-to-back birdies to ensure he is positioned to attack over the final two rounds.
Also in the mix is Steve Stricker (10-under), Bubba Watson and Freddie Jacobson (both nine-under), but it was a day of disappointment for Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose. The Brit, starting on the back nine, caught fire at 14 with three consecutive birdies but ended on a wretched triple-bogey to fall back to where he started at four-under. Garcia, meanwhile, was one of the overnight leaders but could not add to his six-under total.
Elsewhere Luke Donald, playing with Woods and McIlroy, dropped down the leaderboard with a four-over 76 to fall to two-over. He finds himself four adrift of Lee Westwood while Ian Poulter's putter restricted him to an overall tally of six-under.