Rory McIlroy four shots off the lead after erratic second day at Riviera
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 20/02/16 11:52pm
Rory McIlroy will head into the weekend of the Northern Trust Open four shots off the lead despite an erratic back nine in his second-round 69 at Riviera.
McIlroy carded three birdies as he cruised to the turn in 32, but he dropped three shots in six holes on the inward half before picking up his fifth birdie of the round at the long 17th to get back to six under par.
The world No 3 opened with an easy birdie at the par-five first, and he then thrilled the cast galleries with a remarkable 60-foot putt for an unlikely three at the third.
McIlroy rolled in another excellent putt from just inside 30 feet to close out an accomplished front nine, but a poor drive and a chunked pitch at the next cost him his first blemish of the day.
He got the shot back with a sublime pitch to two feet at the next, but he blocked his approach to the 13th way right and could not get up and down, and he lost further ground on the leaders with a three-putt bogey at the 15th.
But he laced a 285-yard three-wood to 25 feet at 17 and two-putted for birdie, and a solid par at the last kept him in a tie for seventh as Jason Kokrak claimed the outright lead on 10 under following a superb 64.
Kokrak birdied two of the first three holes before dropping his only shot of the day at the fourth, and he followed birdies at 10 and 11 with three in four holes from the 14th as he surged to the top of the leaderboard.
Chez Reavie is alone in second place after he birdied three of the last four holes to cap a 67 and move within one of the lead, while American stars Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson share third with Troy Merritt on eight under.
Johnson recovered from an opening bogey at the 10th with six birdies in his 66, while Watson (68) and Merritt (66) both did well to keep bogeys off their cards on the day.
"I think it sets up very good to me. It looks good to my eye. It's a beautiful course," said Johnson, who lost out to James Hahn in a play-off at Riviera last season.
"It's fun to play. You've got to hit a lot of different shots, and it never plays easy. So this is about as easy as it can play right now, good weather and the greens are really soft. Still, the scores are not that low."
His playing partner Adam Scott, who fired a second straight 68 to join the group at six under, admitted he was impressed with how well Johnson was striking the ball.
"Fourth hole of our day, he's swinging like it's 95 degrees and midday somewhere," Scott said. "I was looking for another cup of coffee and he's piping it over the trees on 13. The way he drives the golf ball is just unreal. He's an incredible talent and fun to play with, fun to watch."
Meanwhile, last week's winners Charl Schwartzel and Hideki Matsuyama also in the group at six under, while Justin Rose is a further stroke adrift after he birdied the final three holes to salvage a 68.