McIlroy and McDowell trail by 10 at Honda

Rory McIlroy birdied here to ease his way into the weekend at the Honda Classic.Rory McIlroy birdied two of his last five holes to avoid a brief flirtation with the cut in the Honda Classic.

The Ulsterman was two over for the day after 14 holes but birdied the 15th and 18th for a one-over 71 that left him tied for 43rd with Graeme McDowell (71) on four-over par.

McIlroy said: “I was happy that I was able to come back make a few birdies when I needed them. I feel like four over is nearly the worst I could be and I’m pleased to have played the last five holes in two under.”

Pleased to emerge unscathed from the Bear Trap, he said: “I thought that was a pretty good effort considering the tough holes coming up at 15, 16 and 17.”

McDowell struggled with his long game and his putting in his 71 but confessed: “You are never too far out of touch on this golf course and if I get out there tomorrow morning and go low, you can get yourself right back in the mix.” 

The Irish duo are 10 strokes behind American Kyle Stanley, who fired a four under 66 to lead by a shot on six-under par from South Africa’s Rory Sabbatini, who set the early pace with a course record equalling 64.

England’s Lee Westwood played his last six holes in three over par but finished the day tied for eighth place, five strokes behind Stanley on one under after a 69.

The Worksop man needs to finish solo third at worst to regain the world No 1 ranking he lost to Germany’s Martin Kaymer last week.