PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Nine months ago, Luke Guthrie was playing for the Big Ten Championship.
Friday, the former University of Illinois standout had the second-round lead at the Honda Classic.
Guthrie’s 7-under-par 63 Friday was the best round of the tournament and his short PGA Tour career, but that didn’t create anywhere near the buzz that Rory McIlroy did.
The defending champion and world No. 1-ranked golfer withdrew from the tournament after eight holes Friday morning, citing pain from a wisdom tooth as the reason.
McIlroy, who shot even par Thursday, was 7 over in his round Friday, which he started on hole No. 10. He walked off the course after his second shot to the green of the par-5 18th landed in the water.
Guthrie was at 9-under 131, a shot better than Michael Thompson. Boo Weekley and Graham DeLaet were tied for third at 133. Six others were at 134, including Geoff Ogilvy, Justin Rose and Lee Westwood.
First-round leader Camilo Villegas followed his 64 with a 77 Friday to plunge to 1-over 141 and miss the cut. Tiger Woods posted his second 70 on Friday to make the cut on the number at 140 and tie for 65th.
Guthrie, 23, who won back-to-back Big Ten titles, said he couldn’t wait to play Friday after opening with a 68 Thursday.
“I felt like I could’ve shot 5 under yesterday,” Guthrie said. “I was pretty excited to get back out here.”
Guthrie had seven birdies and no bogeys Friday. A putting tip last week from his college coach Mike Small had him rolling the ball much better. Guthrie had 26 putts Friday, including 10 one-putt greens.
He also drove the ball in the fairway most of the round, which he said is critical at PGA National’s Champion Course.
“This rough’s pretty gnarly,” Guthrie said. “I did a good job with that.”
He said he is looking forward to playing in the final group on Saturday — he tees off with Thompson at 1:40 p.m. — because he likes playing in front of people, especially when he’s making birdies because the crowd can “get the momentum rolling.”
Asked if he’s getting used to playing the PGA Tour, Guthrie said, “I’m still getting used to having a caddie. Last year I was carrying my own golf bag.”
Guthrie does know how to win. After his success at Illinois, Guthrie moved on to the Web.com Tour. He played just 10 events, but won two of them and finished No. 2 on the money list to earn his Tour card.
“Over the off-season I had to kind of pinch myself realizing that I was getting ready to go play for the Tour,” he said. “I feel pretty comfortable right now.”
Thompson, 27, of Birmingham, Ala., shot a 5-under 65 to go with his opening-round 67. He said the course is playing hard and he has adjusted his game accordingly.
“They’ve got the rough really thick this week,” said Thompson, who had six birdies and one bogey. “I’m treating it like a U.S. Open in a sense, just try to hit fairways, hit a lot of greens, take your par when you can get it and if you happen to make a birdie, so be it.
“With this golf course and the rough, you’ve just got to hit fairways. If you don’t hit the fairway, you’re struggling to hit the green.”
Thompson hit 11 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens Friday. He needed only 27 putts, including tap-ins on Nos. 13 and 14 for birdies.
Woods, who bogeyed two of his first four holes Thursday before rallying on his incoming nine to shoot even par, got off to a much better start Friday.
He birdied Nos. 4 and 5, but then bogeyed 6 and 7. A birdie at No. 9 had him going out in 34. He double-bogeyed No. 13, birdied No. 14 and parred in from there.
“I didn’t hit it anywhere near as good as I did yesterday. But I putted well,” said Woods, who had 32 putts Thursday and 26 Friday.
Woods tees off with David Lynn at 8:15 a.m. Saturday. He said he still has time to get his game together.
“There’s 70-plus guys within nine shots of the lead … Anybody in this tournament can win it,” Woods said. “So hopefully I can get it going and at least give myself a chance going into Sunday.”
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