Rose, Gillis lead Honda; Harman shoots 61

Tom Gillis smiles as he walks off the 18th green during the second round of the Honda Classic.

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Rose keeps preaching par is a good score at PGA National. Thanks to a string of birdies Friday, he carved out another 66 to share the lead with Tom Gillis in the Honda Classic.

Three birdies over the last five holes also kept Rory McIlroy in the chase for No. 1 in the world.

“Still a lot of golf left – 36 holes,” McIlroy said after a 67 in the breezy, balmy afternoon. “I just need to keep doing the same things, try to drive the ball in the fairway and give myself loads of opportunities, and try and take a few, because you don’t need to make tons of birdies out here.”

Maybe not, but that was the recipe for Brian Harman, who shattered the Champion course record by three shots and even flirted with golf’s magic number before he had to settle for par on the 543-yard closing hole for a 61.

Birdies also helped Tiger Woods, though not enough to offset a tee shot into the water on the par-3 fifth for a double bogey in his round of 68 that put him seven shots out of the lead.

Rose made five birdies in a nine-hole stretch in the middle of his round and was at 10 under until back-to-back bogeys, an example of how this course can stop momentum quickly. He wound up at 8-under 132 with Gillis, a 43-year-old journeyman who had a 64 and is atop the leaderboard for the first time after any round of a PGA Tour event.

“You can’t play 36 holes around here and expect to come away without any bruises at all,” Rose said.

McIlroy, who would have to win the Honda Classic to replace Luke Donald atop the world ranking, was at 7 under along with Dicky Pride, who birdied his last hole for a 67.

Harman, Jimmy Walker (67) and Monday qualifier Vaughn Taylor (66) were another shot back.

The cut was at 141, the lowest since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National five years ago.

Proof of the low scoring came from Harman, the rookie from Georgia who never imagined standing in the 18th fairway with a chance to shoot 59 with an eagle on the par 5. He gave it his best shot, leaving a hybrid into the front bunker in an attempt to have a reasonable putt. Harman wound up missing a 5-footer and had to settle for par, though his 61 still broke the course record by three shots.

“Just one of those crazy days where everything comes together,” Harman said. “Got off to a really hot start and just kept the pedal down all day. It was awesome.”

For Woods, it was a matter of hitting the gas and slamming on the brakes.

Woods stuffed an approach inside 3 feet for birdie, then had to scramble for bogey. He bounced a tee shot off a spectator and turned that into birdie, only to hit his next tee shot into the water for double bogey. He closed with two birdies.

“It was nice to get that kind of finish because I was struggling today a little bit, trying to find a motion that was going to get the job done,” said Woods, whose 3-year-old son, Charlie, watched him play a tournament for the first time. “Somehow, I managed to score.”

He still didn’t score as well as so many others.

McIlroy ran off nine straight pars – he missed two birdie chances from 5 feet and another one from 12 feet – until he made bogey from the bunker on the 13th hole. He answered with back-to-back birdies, from tap-in range on the 14th and a 15-footer on the next hole, and then finished with a two-putt from 65 feet.

“I had a few chances early on and didn’t take them,” McIlroy said. “Kept making pars and making pars, and broke that run with a bogey on 13 which was frustrating. But to bounce back from that and birdie three of the last five holes was nice, and puts me in great position going into the weekend.”

Gillis said his turning point came with a 25-foot par putt on the 10th, followed by three birdies over the next four holes.

It was quite a turnaround for Gillis, who has played in 26 countries during a journey that has taken him to tours in Europe, Asia and South Africa. He even thought about quitting after he failed to get back to the PGA Tour through Q-School, but he stuck with it, hopeful of days like this one.

Gillis even went home to Michigan after one of his failures at Q-School to get a real job.

“Job market wasn’t very good. Didn’t have a whole lot to offer them, to be quite honest with you,” he said. “So I thought, ‘Geez, I’d better around and go back out there and see if I have anything left.’ It’s kind of a cool story. I like it because you dig deep and you move forward, and it’s a good example to young kids, just never give up and keep believing.

“Sometimes it’s hard to do that in this game because it seems like the game is built to tear you down, to some extent.”

– Associated Press


Tour Tracker

McIlroy birdies the 18th, finishes one back

Rory McIlroy converted a nice two-putt birdie at the par-5 finishing hole to polish off a 3-under 67. McIlroy is now 7 under for the week and one back of leaders Tom Gillis and Justin Rose, who made par at the ninth hole for his second consecutive 66.

Behind McIlroy is a group of three at 6 under that includes PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley, Brian Harman and Vaughn Taylor.

• • •

Rose backpeddles to 8 under

Justin Rose made bogeys at Nos. 6 and 7 to fall into a tie for the lead with Tom Gillis at 8 under par.

Rose, who started on the back nine and shot 4-under 31, got as deep as 10 under with birdies at Nos. 5 and 6. He failed to get up-and-down at the par-4 sixth after missing the green left and he hit the bunker with his tee shot at the par-3 seventh and also failed to get up-and-in.

• • •

Rose extends lead; McIlroy rebounds

Justin Rose is now 10 under - only one player has won this tournament in double-figures under par - and holds a two-shot lead over Tom Gillis.

Meanwhile, after a bogey to fall to 4 under, Rory McIlroy has picked up back-to-back birdies on Nos. 14-15 to move to 6 under and four shots off the pace.

• • •

Rose out front

Justin Rose has moved to 9 under and now holds a one-shot lead over Tom Gillis. Rose is 5 under on the day and has five holes to play.

Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy has dropped back to even-par for the day and 4 under for the tournament.

• • •

Gillis making most of experience

3:55 p.m.

Jupiter resident Tom Gillis figures he’s played PGA National about 15 times in his career. Not all on the PGA Tour, mind you. No, the clubhouse leader at the Honda Classic logged most of those rounds on the developmental Gateway circuit. Proof that there’s more than one way to the top.

But Gillis said he’s never seen PGA National like this: warm, calm, soft, scoreable. It’s the main reason why the 43-year-old shot a bogey-free, 6-under 64 that gave him the early lead at 8-under 132. (That 64 tied the course record; Brian Harman (61) later shattered the mark.) If Gillis can stay atop the leaderboard, it would be the first time he’s ever held the 36-hole lead on Tour.

“I’m your prototypical journeyman,” Gillis concedes.

He has been all over the world, 22 countries, while also playing in Europe, in Asia, in South Africa. A bad attitude -- “my challenges are pretty much between the ears” -- nearly drove him to quit the game in 2006, after missing 17 cuts in 23 starts on the Nationwide circuit. He had lost his PGA Tour card the previous year, was injured in ’04, "so I thought, I’d better turn around and go back out there and see if I have anything left,” Gillis said.

A few up-and-down seasons at least has allowed him to prolong his career. This year has been unsteady, too, with three straight missed cuts to start the year, a T-40, a WD. On the West Coast, he started tinkering with his equipment. Having played graphite shifts since ’99, Gillis says he’s finally regained strength in his wrist after three surgeries. So he turned to steel shafts, hoping for more consistency and less speed. That move didn’t produce instant results. So on Tuesday, after playing nine holes in a practice round, he told his coach, “They (the clubs with graphite shafts) are in the trunk. Go get the other ones. I can’t do it anymore.”

And then, he said, “I absolutely flushed it the last nine holes.”

The same could be said for his entire round Friday.

-- Ryan Lavner

• • •

Flirting with the cut

Of those still on the course, there are a few big names that will need to make a late run to avoid missing the cut in south Florida.

The projected cut is at 1 over. A list of who is in danger:

• Thomas Bjorn is at 2 over thru 14 holes

• Kyle Stanley is at 5 over thru 11 holes

• Camilo Villegas is at 6 over thru 11 holes

Those that have already finished at 2 over and will not be playing the weekend: K.T. Kim, Bud Cauley and Boo Weekley.

• • •

Leaderboard update

Rory McIlroy is 1 under on his round to move to 5 under, which is three strokes behind co-leaders Justin Rose and Tom Gillis. Justin Rose is still on the course, picking up four birdies on his first nine holes (he started on No. 10) and is 4 under thru 10 holes.

Davis Love III is holding strong, as he is also 1 under on the day and is just one stroke off the lead.

A familiar, yet surprising, name is inching closer to the leaders, as Rocco Mediate is 5 under on his round and 6 under for the tournament. He has played 10 holes on Friday.

• • •

Harman's heroic round

No, Brian Harman didn't shoot 59. But he did break the course record at the notoriously difficult PGA National by three shots, which has to feel pretty good.

Harman parred the par-5 18th to shoot 61 in Round 2, vaulting as high as second place as the afternoon wave was in action.

Playing the front nine in 6-under 29, Harman made four birdies and an eagle before making the turn. He then played the famous Bear Trap (holes 15-17) in 2 under before making pars at Nos. 17 and 18.

Finishing the day at 9 under leaves Harman 6 under for the tournament, currently two shots behind leader Tom Gillis.

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