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April 12 2013

3:57 PM

McIlroy finishes strong; in contention

McIlroy is 2 under entering the weekend at Augusta National. (Cannon/Getty Images)

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Rory McIlroy is moving in the right direction.

How far and how fast he'll get to the destination, we'll find out this weekend at Augusta National.

With every good round, McIlroy is another step further from the player who walked off the golf course in the middle of a round and later lost his No. 1 ranking, and one step closer to the player who won five times in 2012 and skyrocketed to the top of the golf world.

Friday, McIlroy played his final 11 holes in 4 under on his way to a 70 to get to 2 under and within reach of the lead entering the weekend at the 77th Masters.

McIlroy's run began on the par-5 eighth, where he made eagle after reaching the green in two from 275 yards with a 5-wood.

Five holes later he made the first of two straight birdies before sticking his approach on the 18th hole to just inside 10 feet to set up another.

"The eighth hole really got me going, really kick started me," McIlroy said. "Then I started to hit some really good, quality shots. I took advantage of a couple of easier holes on the back nine."

On a difficult day of scoring with tucked pins and increased winds, anything under par was a good score.

Just making par on the front nine proved to be valuable for McIlroy, especially after bogeying two of his first three holes. After that, however, McIlroy's card remained mostly clean with just one bogey, on the par-3 16th, the rest of the day.

He also had just 25 putts after taking 32 the day before.

"The improvement in the putting from last night to today has been a big thing," he said. "I'm committing to my lines a lot better.

"I think what pleased me today was just not letting it get away from me. Two over through three holes and having par putts on the next four from outside six feet and being able to turn in even par was something I was very proud of today. I stayed patient out there when I needed to. It was a good day."

And potentially a better weekend.

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