DORAL, Fla. -- Rory McIlroy spotted his mother, Rosie, on the back nine of his second round at the WGC-Cadillac Championship on Friday, and was in such a good mood he decided to poke some fun at himself.
"I'm in red numbers!" he said, as if he were shooting under par for the first time.
In fact he was: McIlroy's second-round 69, which left him at 2 under for the tournament, 11 strokes behind playing partner Tiger Woods, was the young Irishman's first under-par score of 2013. That's hard to believe considering McIlroy, 23, is the number one player in the world, but he's had a rough start to the year, consisting of a missed cut, a first-round loss at the Match Play, and a WD at the Honda Classic last week.
Friday was different: One day after he hit only three of 14 fairways in round one, leading to a 1-over 73, McIlroy -- buoyed by a late range session after the round -- hit eight of 14 fairways in round two.
"I had a couple three-putts," McIlroy said, "but that's not what I'm focused on right now. It's about the ball-striking, and that part is getting there." (Related Photos: Rory McIlroy Life in Pictures) McIlroy took only 28 putts Friday but three-putted the fourth and 18th greens. Even that final hiccup, on his last hole, couldn't sour his mood after the round. Asked if he worried about jinxing himself by noting his under-par status mid-round, he joked that since he was 3 under he figured he was probably safe.
"Rory played all right today," Woods said. "He made some nice swings and holed a few putts. Certainly he's trying to work his way through making some changes in his swing. It's not easy, especially at this level on difficult courses. It's tough. But he's put in some time this past weekend, this past week, and you know, from what I can see, it certainly is improving. He still has got a lot of time until Augusta, so he's on the right track."
"I'm pleased with today," McIlroy said.
(Photo: Fred Vuich/SI)