World No. 1 Rory McIlroy turned the chance to distance himself from his rivals into a ‘grind’ before falling two shots behind on day two of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.
McIlroy, who was one off the lead on day one, went into his second round after lunch finding himself in the lead by a shot after overnight leader Matt Every crashed from his opening 65 in a horror second round 83 that saw him miss the halfway cut by a stroke.
Every was not alone and in fact, just two players out in the morning managed to break 70 in the windier and much tougher Bay Hill conditions.
McIlroy also was soon struggling, making the turn in two-over, a front nine not helped in posting a double-bogey at the eighth hole.
He was then three shots back of England’s Tyrrell Hatton after a bogey on 15 but cut the gap back to just two with the birdie on 17 ahead of a closing par for his five-under tally.
“It was a grind and I think I made it more of a grind than I needed to,” said McIlroy.
“But yeah, it was tough. I mean, conditions were tricky, greens are getting firm, wind was out of a different direction today, so that made things a little interesting too.
“But all in all, it would have been nice to get back to even par after a double on 8, but it was nice to make birdie on 17 and I’m still right there in the golf tournament.”
No trouble for Hatton who picked-up five birdies in a 69 to muscle his way to a one-shot lead on seven-under par in his first of seven events over the next eight weeks.
“I am just so happy to be done with today as I felt like I lost my swing on my last nine holes, I just felt so uncomfortable over the ball,” he said.
“I just didn’t know where it was going but then I am a little bit surprised to be where I am and I have my short-game and putting to thank for that.”
Graeme McDowell saw his goal of a second victory this season slip in the very windy morning conditions in posting a 74 to drop from four-under and just shots adrift of McIlroy on day one to just inside the top-20 at two-under.
McDowell was out from the 10th tee and got to five-under par and within one shot of McIlroy’s overnight tally after birdies at his fifth and seventh holes.
It proved the high water mark of GMac’s round when he dropped three shots in succession from his 11th hole including a drive so far left of the par-4 fourth hole or the 13th of his round that he had to hit a second down the adjoining fifth fairway.
McDowell superbly grabbed a shot back at the ‘boomerang-shaped’ par-5 sixth hole in landing a six-footer but was certainly in no mood for a post-round fireside chat in dropping a shot at his penultimate hole.
And European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington continues to struggle Stateside after missing a cut second cut in succession with Bay Hill scores of 74 and 79.
Harrington never recovered in taking an opening hole triple-bogey ‘7’ and while he did manage two birdies, he also posted a double-bogey ‘6’ at 11 along with four other bogeys.
Full scoring HERE