Rory McIlroy endured a costly finish to his second round with bogeys on the 15th and 17th holes to shoot a level par 72, and in the process gave up the lead in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the Bay Hill course to his Ryder Cup teammate Viktor Hovland, who will take a two-shot lead into the weekend.
McIlroy, who is in a tie for second place alongside Talor Gooch (68) and Tyrell Hatton (68), lost a little patience on greens that ended up a little bumpier for the later starters and his desire to push ultimately cost him.
The Northern Ireland golfer recovered from a dropped shot at the opening hole, when he failed to get up and down having missed the green, to grab three birdies before the turn; it could have been even better, his eagle putt on the fourth finishing half a roll short.
His tee shot on the par three seventh looked brilliant in the air and indeed came within several millimetres of the cup before rolling five feet past; he made the birdie putt.
There is generally a pivotal moment in a round and McIlroy stared down his on the ninth having driven into the rough but rescued a par by holing from six feet. It allowed him to turn in two under and retain a share of the lead alongside Hovland.
The Norwegian had climbed through the field with a brilliant, six under 66, a round that included seven birdies and just a single dropped shot.
McIlroy endured a frustrating time on the greens, more often than not coming up short with birdie putts. That possibly manifested itself on the 15th when he gave a birdie putt a big nudge and missed the return for a three-putt bogey to drop a shot and out of the joint lead, one back on eight under.
The par five, 16th - he was five under for the par fives during his opening round 65 - offered an opportunity but he pushed his second into a greenside bunker and drew a horrible, heavily plugged lie. His bunker shot was excellent but for the second hole in a row he charged the putt; he did well to hole the five foot par putt.
There was to be no salvation on the par three 17th, when he missed the green, his chip was a little on the chunky side and he ended up with a bogey to drop back to seven under where he had started the day.
Graeme McDowell’s round imploded on the par four 11th when he pulled his approach into the lake and ran up a triple bogey seven. He was five under for the tournament at one point on the front nine before the calamity as he fell further with another bogey soon after.
He rallied briefly to go back into red figures for the tournament with a birdie on the par five 16th but gave that shot back on the last after missing the green with his approach. A four over 76 meant that he slipped down outside the top 30 on the leaderboard.
Padraig Harrington, who started on the 10th turned in level par for his round and one over for the tournament, was left to rue a double bogey on the par five sixth when he took four to reach the green and three-putted. A bogey on the ninth to sign for a 74 that left him on the cut line.
Seamus Power’s opening 80 meant that he was never in contention to play the four rounds but he would have derived some satisfaction from a level par 72 in his second round.
Leona Maguire climbed back up the leaderboard with a third round 69 in Singapore, leaving her in a tie for 15th heading into the final day. Korea's In Gee Chun holds the lead on 12-under.
Maguire carded five birdies and three bodies in her round a day after signing for a level par 72.
Meanwhile Niall Kearney was best of the Irish on one under par at the halfway point of the Magical Kenya Open on the DP World Tour, nine shots behind the leader, India's Shubhankar Sharma (-10). The Dubliner was three over for the front nine of his second round but four birdies and a bogey saw him sign for a 71.
Paul Dunne (70, 72), Cormac Sharvin (70, 72) and Jonathan Caldwell (76, 66) also made the weekend on the level par cut mark but Gavin Moynihan (70, 73) missed out by a shot