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Originally published January 17, 2014 at 7:46 PM | Page modified January 17, 2014 at 8:18 PM

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Rory McIlroy playing well enough to even impress Phil Mickelson

Rory McIlroy showing the difference that a year makes


The Associated Press

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Rory McIlroy birdied his last two holes to post a 5-under 67 and is two shots off the lead two rounds into the Abu Dhabi Championship on Friday.

In the process, he even impressed Phil Mickelson.

“His game looks really sharp and his driving was impeccable,” Mickelson said of McIlroy.

At 7 under in the European Tour event, McIlroy was in contention for a second victory in three outings.

Mickelson, his playing partner, also was happy, though in relief to make the cut at 1 under with a 70 after a first-round 73.

Tied for the lead were Scotland’s Craig Lee (67) and Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello (68) at 9 under, a stroke ahead of England’s Danny Willett (63).

McIlroy shares fourth with Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez (66) and Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn (70).

He was happy to compare it with how he missed the cut a year ago, when he debuted new equipment and left himself and sponsor Nike red-faced. In that humbling display of consecutive 75s were two double bogeys and seven bogeys.

“Coming off the last green last year, after 36 holes, I was deflated to say the least,” he said.

Reed fires back-to-back 63s

LA QUINTA, Calif. — Patrick Reed found La Quinta Country Club to his liking, too, leaving everyone else behind again in the Humana Challenge.

A day after shooting a 9-under 63 at PGA West’s Arnold Palmer Private Course to take the lead, Reed had another 9-under 63 down the road at tree-lined La Quinta to stretch his advantage to two strokes over Brendon Todd.

The 23-year-old Reed eagled the par-5 fifth hole, hitting a high 5-iron approach that landed softly and rolled to 4 feet. He also had eight birdies.

Todd had a bogey-free 63 on the Palmer course. Ryan Palmer (65) was third, three back at 15-under.

Michael Putnam of University Place was tied for 48th at 7-under 137 after a 69. Richard H. Lee (72), a former Husky, was tied at 142nd at 1-over 145.

NOTES

Rocco Mediate took the first-round lead with a 9-under 63 in the Champions Tour’s season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Kaupulehu-Kona, Hawaii. Mediate played the first seven holes in 6-under with four birdies and an eagle. Seattle product Fred Couples had a 7-under 65, going 6 under on the par 5s with two eagles and two birdies. Kirk Triplett, a graduate of Pullman High, is tied for 21st after a 70.

• The Web.com Tour announced its schedule, and a new tournament in Portland. The last regular-season tournament on the 25-event schedule will be the Portland Open at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club on Aug. 21-24.



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