McIlroy feels his way into contention in Maui winds
Rory McIlroy speaking to Golf Channel after his second round 68 in the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii

Rory McIlroy speaking to Golf Channel after his second round 68 in the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii

Rory McIlroy continued his encouraging start to 2019 when he put technical thoughts aside and crafted a five-under 68 to trail Gary Woodland by three strokes at halfway in the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.

The Co Down man is tied for second place on nine-under par with Bryson DeChambeau (68) and first-round leader Kevin Tway (71) after showing his full repertoire of feel shots on a windy second day at the Plantation Course at Kapalua on Maui.

Woodland shot a second successive six-under 67 to lead on 12-under, but McIlroy is tucked just behind him after some excellent play, missing only two greens in regulation despite the stiff breeze.

"The wind is up a little bit compared to yesterday," McIlroy told Golf Channel. "But the nice thing about this golf course is that it's designed with this wind in mind and the wind usually comes out of the same direction every day.

"It's not too difficult. You know what to expect before you go out there; what clubs you are going to hit off tees; you know how far right or left you are going to have to aim on each hole. So it was good to play a couple of practice round in conditions like this as well.

"It's tricky, especially when you get onto the greens, and especially some of the exposed greens on the back nine. Overall the scores are still pretty good. You've got guys in double digits under par, so it's still pretty scoreable out there."

McIlroy made an early bogey at the 370-yard fourth, where he drove into a penalty area on the left and had to take a penalty drop.

But he turned in one-under having birdied the par-five fifth and ninth, then came home in four-under 33.

At the 12th, a 382-yard drive left him just 48 yards to the pin, and he made sure of his birdie by pitching to three feet.

At the driveable 14th, he chipped to seven feet from around 20 yards and made that to get to three-under for the day.

While he missed from inside six feet for birdie at the par-five 15th, he played a 71-yard approach to just seven feet at the 363-yard 16th and holed the birdie putt before getting up and down from 74 yards at the par-five 18th.

"I am comfortable," McIlroy said of the venue. "I have enjoyed the last couple of days — flighting different shots, hitting different trajectories.

"With all the technical work that I've tried to do in the off-season, it's a real contrast to come out here and completely forget about the swing and just try and hit the shots. So it has been quite nice to get into that mindset this week."

Defending champion Dustin Johnson slipped back to tied 12th on five-under after a one-over 74 as he dropped four shots in his first six holes.

The former world number one, who was penalised two strokes for hitting a wrong ball from a penalty area at the fourth, also dropped shots at the second and sixth before steadying the ship with three birdies in his last ten holes.

Australian Marc Leishman remained in fifth place, four shots off the lead after a 68 with big hitting Cameron Champ (68) tied for sixth with Justin Thomas (72) and Xander Schauffele (67) on seven-under.