Wednesday 21 March 2018

McIlroy notably absent from battle at top of leaderboard

Tiger Woods tees off on the first hole during second round play
Tiger Woods tees off on the first hole during second round play
Rory McIlroy tees off on the first hole today
Graeme McDowell in action in Florida

Phil Casey

The name of Rory McIlroy remained conspicuous by its absence from a truly world-class leaderboard in the second round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship in Miami today.

McIlroy needed two birdies in his last three holes yesterday to card an opening 73, one over par, as most of the rest of the 65-man field took advantage of perfect conditions to tame the famed Blue Monster at Doral.


And despite starting his second round today with a birdie on the par-five first - ranked the easiest hole on the course - McIlroy remained a long way adrift of the leaders, with playing partner Tiger Woods among those challenging for the first prize of £985,000.


Woods' Ryder Cup partner Steve Stricker led the way on nine under after picking up four shots in his first 10 holes, with Woods and Graeme McDowell a shot behind after two birdies in six and 11 holes respectively.


Woods had opened with three straight pars but then birdied the fourth and fifth from a total distance of seven feet after two superb approach shots.


US Masters champion Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson and defending champion Justin Rose were on seven under, although overnight joint leader Sergio Garcia had dropped back to four under.


McIlroy has dominated the golfing headlines this year, firstly for signing a multi-million pound deal with Nike and then missing the cut in his first event with his new equipment in Abu Dhabi.


He then lost to Shane Lowry in the first round of the WGC Accenture Match Play, before things went from bad to worse as he quit the defence of his Honda Classic title last week after completing just eight holes of his second round.


McIlroy issued a full apology for his withdrawal on Wednesday, admitting the pain from a wisdom tooth and being in a "bad place mentally" was no excuse for walking off the course after playing those eight holes in seven over par.


However, a full weekend working with coach Michael Bannon on a swing flaw had not done the trick, with the 23-year-old admitting there was no quick fix at hand.


A two-putt birdie on the first was the ideal start, but McIlroy bogeyed the fourth and sixth to lie two over par and in a share of 55th place.

Woods was producing the sort of relentless golf which he commonly did in his prime, making further birdies at the 10th and 11th to improve to 12 under par.


And when Mickelson paid the price for a wayward approach to the seventh with a bogey five, Woods was suddenly three shots clear of the field.


The former world number one was already looking a good bet for his seventh win in the Cadillac Championship and 17th WGC title overall.

More to follow

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