The world No 1, who previously hadn???t posted a sub-70 round in America in 2015, showed signs of being back to his best with seven birdies, including five in succession during a second round six-under, but still trails Hoffmann by six strokes heading into the weekend.
Opening with a 12-foot gain at the par-five 10th, McIlroy needed to save par from greenside bunkers three times during the back nine to reach the turn in 34, before clicking into top gear on the front nine.
McIlroy holed from 18-feet on the second, then added gains from within seven-feet at three and four. A superb approach to the fifth left him just inches from the hole, before extending his birdie streak after getting up and down from a bunker with his second shot at the par-five sixth.??
After narrowly seeing sixth gain in a row from 35-feet roll wide of the cup, McIlroy miscued his drive at the eighth and found the bunker with a second shot for his only bogey of the day.
Bay Hill is McIlroy’s??last competitive outing before attempting to become the sixth??player to complete the career grand slam by winning next month’s Masters, with the 25-year-old pleased with how his game is progressing.??
“At that point it feels pretty easy,” McIlroy said. “You??are trying to just keep it going, you can feel the momentum building and going??with you.
“It would have been nice to finish the round off a little better but it’s??still a good score and sets me up for the weekend. Each day I am feeling more??comfortable, especially on the greens, and we got the best of the greens being??out early.
“I’m happy with how I putted today and will need to putt like that over the??weekend to have a chance.”
Padraig Harrington followed on from his recent victory at the Honda Classic with another solid display at Bay Hill, carding a second round 71 to move five-under for the week.
The Irishman, who is back into the world???s top 100, opened his second round with three early birdies to reach the turn in 33, before striking three successive bogeys to miss out on the chance to close the gap on the leaders.
Although a one-under second day wasn’t as an impressive scorecard as Harrington’s bogey-free opening round, the three-time major winner found plenty to be encouraged by.??
???Yesterday I got lucky a few times and definitely made the most of that round,??? Harrington told Sky Sports 4. ???I played much better today and was solid all the way through.
???These bogeys (14, 15 and 16); the first ones were a couple of three-putts so they were fine and hitting the water out of on the bunker on the 16th was one of those things, so they???re not a big deal.???
???Really those three were putting more than anything else but thankfully I finished with a nice birdie coming home.?????