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'Confident' Rory goes two ahead in Florida

GOLF: Rory McIlroy continued to head the field midway through day two of the Honda Classic, with a second-round 66 giving him a two-shot lead over the chasing pack.

Among the early starters in Palm Beach, the Northern Irishman recovered from two bogeys in his opening three holes to sink six birdies and move to 11 under for the tournament.

That saw McIlroy (right), who held a one-shot lead at the end of the opening day, put a little daylight between himself and his rivals, with South Africa's Brendon de Jonge the nearest challenger on nine under, having completed 10 holes.

McIlroy was struggling for form this time last year, but put his success in Florida down to regaining his confidence.

"When you hit a few good shots, your confidence can go up quite quickly, but then you hit one bad one, it can sort of go down again and that's where I was sort of most of last year," he said.

"Now I feel I'm happy with where my swing is and even if I do hit a loose shot, I can get over it much quicker and much easier because I have the confidence in what I'm doing."

England's Lee Westwood also made his mark on the leaderboard on Friday, mixing six birdies with one bogey for a second-round 65 to sit seven under, four shots behind McIlroy.


SNOOKER: Ronnie O'Sullivan (below) stormed into the semi-finals of the Welsh Open with a clinical 5-1 demolition of John Higgins yesterday.

What had looked a mouth-watering showdown on paper turned out to be a cruise for reigning world champion O'Sullivan as he secured his place in the last four without needing to break sweat.

In a battle between players with nine world titles and five Welsh Open crowns between them, O'Sullivan took a 2-0 lead, with his break of 115 in the second ending up being the highest of the match by some considerable distance.

Higgins pulled a frame back with a 51 break in the third, but that was as good as it got for the Scot as O'Sullivan comfortably won the final three frames – including a break of 65 in the fifth – to take the win.

To emphasise just how one-sided the encounter was, Higgins only managed 110 points in the whole match – 72 of which came in the third frame.

A delighted O'Sullivan, whose win was his first over Higgins in a ranking event since 2009, said: "Any win against John, whether he is playing well or not, is always a feather in anybody's cap.

"To me, he is the complete player. If I am really on my game, I know I can stay with him. But if I am slightly off and he's on, then it is just a mismatch really because he is too good.

"If he had played well today, he probably would have beaten me, but at the moment, I am better at playing bad and winning."

Earlier in the day, Ding Junhui survived a big scare to defeat teenager Joel Walker 5-4.

Walker, 19, looked on course for a place in the semi-finals after taking a 4-2 lead, but Ding pulled the match out of the fire by winning the last three frames, including breaks of 139 and 104 in the final two.

The Chinese star is looking to win his second Welsh Open title in three years, as well as claim his fifth ranking title of the season – a feat that would equal the record of five set by Stephen Hendry in the 1990-91 season.


TENNIS: Roger Federer rolled back the years to stun Novak Djokovic 3-6 6-3 6-2 in the semi-finals of the Dubai Championship last night, his first victory in four meetings with the world number two.

Seventeen-times grand slam winner Federer predicted before the tournament that his best tennis was still to come, a suggestion that sounded far-fetched for a player who has slipped to eighth in the world, his lowest ranking since 2002.

From midway through the second set, however, the 32-year-old Swiss-dominated Djokovic, who is still some way short of his 2011 peak when he won Wimbledon, the US Open and Australian Open.