And what is that target score for Sunday’s final round? Notice for next month’s Masters. After he had won two major championships in 2014, McIlroy became somewhat forgotten a year ago.
Jason Day meanwhile is now in a tie for 30th on one-over after firing a one-under-par 71. Joining Lee at two-under is world No 1 Jordan Spieth, who had a 73 on Sunday.
Australian Scott, victor of the Honda Classic last week, bogeyed two of the last six holes on the way to a 73 and a share of second at nine-under with long-hitting American Dustin Johnson (71).
Playing alongside Dustin Johnson, who fired a bogey free 8-under the card, was a motivating factor for Scott today. McIlroy shot a 65 for his share of second place after two rounds, and Danny Willett was alone in fourth at 7 under.
It is not just the putts for birdie, and McIlroy ties the lead with 13 in that category, but those that save par that shape a winning scorecard.
“Getting off to a good start is going to be key”, he said.
“The wind was coming from a different direction which made the course more hard today”, McIlroy said on NBC. “I felt really good about it. I’ll have to do the same thing tomorrow”. I didn’t make any mistakes, which is what I was hoping for. He said it’d be “foolish” for the Tour to move the event elsewhere, but in the end he believes he’d “make more money. I need to do more of the same [Sunday]”.
And the reason McIlroy is in prime position is his putting. Turns out McIlroy waited to change because he didn’t want people thinking he changed because Spieth uses a left-hand low grip. He had 33 putts on Thursday, 23 on Friday. He made just over 100 feet worth of putts and ranked fourth in the field in strokes gained putting.
Johnson, who sank a six-foot birdie putt at 16 to reach 10-under, closed with a bogey to drop back level with Scott at three adrift, but the defending Doral champion will play alongside McIlroy in the final duo while Scott and Mickelson are in the penultimate pairing.
McIlroy got up and down from a greenside bunker to birdie the par-five first and picked up another shot from seven feet on the fifth, before a birdie on the eighth – despite finding two bunkers – took him into the outright lead for the first time. I’m sure it’s going to be an wonderful weekend out here.
“I can’t tell you exactly what is going to come from each of these areas, what I can tell you without any hesitation is that each of four or five areas that we are working on will all be better than they were before we got together to collaborate”. I’ve got my work cut out for me.
McIlroy relayed Spieth’s response to learning of the grip change: “You’ve joined the dark side, I see”.
Honourable mention to Kristoffer Broberg for the shot of the day, this chip on the 16th. The 26-year-old, who has four top 10s on the Blue Monster in his last five tries, circled birdies on Nos.
“I feel like the putting is becoming instinctive”, he said.
“I don’t think it takes that much courage, ” McIlroy said. I feel like I’m playing really well.