McIlroy wasn't much of a factor in the opening playoff event last week at Bethpage Black, where the greens were baked out by sunshine and nearly dead by the third round, making it difficult to score. The greens have been pure at the TPC Boston, and it showed in the scoring.
Then again, he didn't have to make putts from very far. McIlroy made three birdies from inside 10 feet — one of them a tap-in on the 14th — and he seized the lead on the par-5 18th. Even though the pin was to the front of the smaller, treacherous green, there was enough wind in his face that he could get 4-iron in the air and have it land softly. It rode a gentle slope to about 10 feet away and he made the eagle putt.
After an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 1, McIlroy was poised to get some separation on the field until he tried to hit a high cut with a 5-wood on the par-5 second. He pushed it too far, into the water, and made bogey.
"That was a really tricky little pin position there on the second," he said. "If you lay up, you're going to have to hit a really good shot to get it close to try and make birdie. I'm sure it played a little easier yesterday, but you'll probably see just as many bogeys as you do birdies there today."
On the next hole, his long putt from the fringe was weak and came up 8 feet short, and he missed that for another bogey. But that was that. He followed with back-to-back birdies to get back to 12 under, and made a 12-foot par putt on the eighth to keep from dropping another shot.
McIlroy attributed the improvement from last week to one thing.
"My putting," he said. "I wasn't very comfortable on the greens at all last week. They weren't the best surfaces. I think everyone saw that. This week, the surfaces are much better, and it gives you a little more confidence that you can roll your putts at the hole a bit more."
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