Friday, March 18, 2016

Rory McIlroy shoots 67 at Bay Hill to easily make the cut

Rory McIlroy has righted the H.M.S. Ulsterman.

After opening with 3-over 75 with a case of the Lefts on Thursday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, McIlroy improved by eight shots on Friday with a 5-under 67 that has him easily moving on to the weekend at Bay Hill.

The down side for McIlroy is that he still lost two more shots to Jason Day, who, at 13-under 131, is 11 shots of the world No. 2.

"I saw him ahead of me and I got to maybe 8 behind at one point,'' McIlroy said. "And I was thinking if maybe I could get to 6 behind for the weekend ... and then I'm 11 behind. Maybe I can make up a little ground. But 67 was a great start today. It could have been better. If I can go out at the weekend and shoot a couple of scores similar to that, it might not be good enough, but it'll still be a good comeback from what [I shot] yesterday.''

McIlroy started the tournament by pulling his first tee shot onto the driving range, leading to a double-bogey 6. He made another double bogey later in the round and found three different water hazards. The poor performance sent McIlroy to the range post-round for an hour to work out the kinks.

"The shots I was hitting [during the round] I hadn't seen in a long time,'' said McIlroy. "I wanted to know whether it was my swing or what it was. I sort of figured out that my face angle was a little left at impact. I'd been trying to move the ball up a little bit in my stance with the driver. The face was closing a little bit and even if you're swing it well with the face closed, at [that] speed, there is no way it is going to come back. That's where the lefts were coming from.''

The performance was particularly surprising considering how well he prepared in the intervening week between Doral, where he finished third, and Bay Hill.

"You should have seen the practice sessions I had in Palm Beach last week,'' he said. "I was coming here full of confidence and really hitting it well."

With Day so far ahead of him, McIlroy's weekend mission is to build back where he was leading into this week. He'll defend the first of two PGA Tour titles won last year in Austin, Texas, next week at the WGC-Dell Match Play. Then he'll get his second crack to try to complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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