PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – With another stellar round under his belt, there's little question Rory McIlroy is firing on all cylinders again.
Tiger Woods is not.
McIlroy followed his pace-setting 63 in the first round with a 4-under-par 66 on Friday to maintain the lead in the Honda Classic on the Champions Course at the PGA National Resort and Spa.
At 11 under through 36 holes, he leads Brendon de Jonge (64) by one shot. Russell Henley (68) is three back while Lee Westwood (65) and Russell Knox (63) are four back.
Woods, the world's No. 1, still can't shake his 2014 slump. Woods shot 69 to move to even-par and made the cut on the number. Woods, who is off to his worst start as a professional, chipped in for birdie on the 13th hole to get inside the cutline, and then made five pars to make sure he plays the weekend.
Phil Mickelson, however, is headed home as he did not make the cut after a 71 left him one shot away from the weekend.
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McIlroy made two bogeys in his first three holes but bounced back with six birdies in his last 12 holes.
After a woeful 2013 on and off the course, McIlroy started finding his form late last year and has six top-10s in his last nine starts, including a win in the Australian Open.
"I struggled to sort of find my rhythm the first few holes," said McIlroy, who became No. 1 with a win here in 2012 but walked off the course before finishing his 27th hole last year. "Once you get yourself out of position on this golf course, it's very easy to make bogeys. But I stayed patient, made a couple of good birdies before the end of the front nine and then played really, really well on the back, and holed a couple of really nice putts.
"To be 11‑under par after two days on this golf course is a good effort."
He rarely got to 11 under last year. But he started finding his swing last October and finally got in tune with his new equipment.
"I was still tinkering with equipment last year. I just wasn't feeling in control of, you know, what I needed to be in control of," said McIlroy, who has needed just 49 putts through 36 holes. "This year is obviously a lot different."
Woods, who started his second round one shot outside the cutline and 12 shots behind McIlroy, still can't find total control of his game. After missing the 54-hole cut in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, where he's won eight times as a professional, and finishing in a tie for 41st in the Dubai Desert Classic, he conceded he didn't practice enough in the offseason.
But he said he put in the work the past four weeks before the Honda Classic and said he was ready. But Woods still can't put a complete round together. He'll hit the ball well from tee to green for stretches but doesn't putt well. Then he'll putt well but hit the ball poorly.
"I certainly grinded my way around this place today. I didn't hit it very good," Woods said. "It was just one of those days where I fought out a number, which was good. … I would like to obviously hit it better than I have been, and especially today. I didn't hit it very well today. But again, I fought out a number, which is always a good thing. Somehow I would like to put together a good weekend."
Despite an 11-shot deficit, Woods isn't conceding defeat. Winds in the neighborhood of 10-20 mph are expected on the weekend, which turns this course even nastier and "anything can happen," Woods said.
And he isn't downtrodden about his game.
"It's only three events, so not that many rounds into it," he said. "There are a lot of positives in there. My short game was spotty and now it's good again, so now I just need my ball-striking to come around."
Westwood, also off to a slow start, started to get his game in gear two weeks ago in the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles. On a course just 10 minutes from his home his game has continued to improve.
"I really enjoy playing this golf course," Westwood said. "It's a demanding test. There are a lot of holes out there where there are no bail-outs. You've got to stand up there and hit your shot. It's a major-style golf course in certain ways."
And it's a course that can get much tougher on the weekend.
"Normally the wind blows a lot stronger than this and it makes it even tougher, but hopefully over the weekend it will spring up a little bit and show its teeth, because it's one of the best tests on Tour," Westwood said. "Maybe outside the major championships, it's the toughest test."