Palm Beach Gardens - Rory McIlroy seized a three-stroke lead in the clubhouse during Friday's second round of the $6 million US PGA Honda Classic with a four-under par 66 that featured a strong finish.
The 24-year-old world number eight from Northern Ireland stood on 11-under 129 through 36 holes at PGA National, three strokes in front of American Russell Henley in the clubhouse and Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge, who had 13 holes remaining.
England's Lee Westwood and Scotsman Russell Knox shared fourth on 133 in the clubhouse with Welshman Jamie Donaldson and American Ryan Palmer sharing sixth on 134 through 36 holes.
McIlroy, who opened with a sizzling bogey-free 63 on Thursday, teed off on the back nine and found the right rough off the 11th tee on his way to a bogey. Going over the 12th green led to another bogey.
But McIlroy turned around the day with a five-foot birdie putt at the 16th and a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-5 18th.
Then McIlroy ran off three birdies in a row starting at the par-5 third, where he left a 53-foot eagle putt inches short for a tap-in birdie.
McIlroy, a two-time major champion, won the event in 2012 to become a world number one for the first time in his career, but last year walked off the course complaining of toothache and mental fatigue.
This week, he has reclaimed the form that launched him to the top of the golf world and avoided the inconsistency that nagged him throughout last season.
“One of the goals this year for me was consistency,” McIlroy said. “It's quite emotionally draining when you have all these highs and lows.
“More consistency in my golf game will flatten out those highs and lows and give me that. Confidence comes from making good swings.”
Reigning British Open champion Phil Mickelson fired a 71 to stand on 141, just the wrong side of the projected cut line.
World number one Tiger Woods, among the late starters on Friday, opened with a 71 and was looking at having to snap a streak of five rounds at par or over at PGA National just to reach the weekend.