McIlroy, contesting the ‘winners only’ event for a first time in his 12-year pro career, dealt with the test presented to him superbly in posting a second round five-under par 68 to move into a threeway share of second place at nine-under par alongside Bryson DeChambeau (68) and Kevin Tway (71) on the Plantation course at Kapalua.
It sees McIlroy and the two Americans trailing two shots behind another American in Gary Woodland who posted a second straight 67 to lead the 33-player field on 11-under par.
“The wind was up a little bit compared to Thursday but the nice thing about this golf course is that it is designed with this wind in mind,” said McIlroy.
“The wind usually comes out of the same direction every day, so it’s not too difficult and you know what to expect before you go out there. You know what clubs you are going to hit off all the tees and how far right or left you are going to have to aim on each hole.
“I stayed patient out there and it was good also to play a couple of practice rounds in conditions like what we had today.
“It does get tricky especially when you get onto the greens, and then even moreso on some of the exposed greens on the back nine but overall the scores are still pretty good and, I mean, you have guys double-digit under par so it’s still pretty scoreable out there.”
The four-time Major winning McIlroy bogeyed his fourth hole but was then six-under par for his closing 14 holes and highlighting his round with four birdies over the last six holes.
And of much pleasure to McIlroy is that he’s seven-under over the inward half for the two rounds while he’s dropped just two shots also in 36-holes.
“The thing is if I can get through that front nine in under par there is good chances on the back nine and that is what I did out there today,” McIlroy added.
“So, I was able to take advantage of those chances over the back nine again today.
“The good thing also is I have only had two bogeys in 36-holes and that’s nice way to start the new year.”
For all but one year, McIlroy has commenced a New Year at the European Tour’s ‘Middle East Swing’ and where the now 29-year has enjoyed success including winning a first pro career event in capturing the 2009 Omega Dubai Desert Classic and then again for a second occasion in 2015.
But McIlroy has also enjoyed frustration in the Middle East and that was no more evident near on 12 months ago when he admitted to being ‘p••••d off’ in handing the 2018 Omega Dubai Desert Classic title to China’s Haotong Li.
So, it may come as somewhat as a surprise McIlroy has found form so quickly in the Hawaiian event he had previously qualified on six occasions but elected instead to compete on the European Tour.
“I’m comfortable on this golf course and I’ve enjoyed the last couple of days like flighting different shots, hitting different trajectories and with all the technical work I have had to do in the off-season, it is a real contrast to come out here and completely forget about the swing and just hit the shots,” he said.
“So, it’s been quite nice to get into that mindset this week.
“It’s more of a feel move for me to be out here competing in Hawaii.”
Source : EXPRESS