PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — So much for any haunting flashbacks.
A year to the day after walking off the PGA National course in disgust, Rory McIlroy showed again Friday that he has moved on from perhaps the lowlight of his career, shooting a 4-under-par 66 for a 1-shot lead at 11 under after the second round at the Honda Classic.
McIlroy, 24, withdrew after just 27 holes here a year ago, walking to his car after making a bogey, two double-bogeys and a triple-bogey over a nine-hole stretch that had him on a pace for a score well into the 80s.
The incident caused considerable backlash for McIlroy, who was No. 1 in the world at the time and coming off a five-victory season. Now ranked eighth, McIlroy has started to show the form that got him on top in 2012.
He added six more birdies Friday to his 7-under 63 opening-round effort and overcame a slow start in which he bogeyed two of the first three holes. He played his final 12 holes in 6 under. McIlroy was one stroke ahead of Brendon de Jonge, who shot a second-round 64.
“It’s a different end of the spectrum,” McIlroy said of the difference from a year ago. “I wasn’t quite comfortable with my golf swing. I was still tinkering with equipment. I just wasn’t feeling in control of what I needed to be in control of.
“This year is obviously a lot different. Got off to a good start; I’m confident; I’m playing well. This is the second straight tournament I’ve opened with a 63. So if I can keep building on these good starts, then hopefully I can start converting.”
McIlroy shot 63 last month in Dubai and trailed leader Stephen Gallacher by just 2 strokes heading into the final round but closed with 74 and finished ninth. It was a disappointing ending, as McIlroy seemed primed to get his first European Tour victory in more than a year.
“I tried too hard not even just the last day, but the weekend, because I had started so well in the tournament, I felt like I should have been further ahead and I tried a little bit too hard,” he said. “My course management on Sunday was probably not as good as it could have been. I should have taken a few more 3-woods off tees.
“There’s a couple things I took away from that. You always try to learn week by week and try to incorporate what you’ve learned the week before into the next week.”