Dustin Johnson takes 2-shot lead into Saturday

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The 29-year-old missed only one green in regulation, a pulled drive into the trees at the par-five sixth leading to his only blemish of the day, from which he bounced back with a birdie at the eighth which ensured the outright lead over Dustin Johnson.

McIlroy, whose last PGA Tour triumph was at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, suggested victory at the WGC would be a happy by-product of his current focus on the fundamentals.

"I love where my attitude is at". Made some mistakes to bogey 12 and 13 but I managed to finish strongly by holing a long putt on 17. I was able to control my distance as well, control trajectories well, but my putting felt great all year, so if I'm excited about anything in my game, it's the way I've putted the last few weeks. "(I was thinking) this could be a pretty good number". "I think I have a very good game plan, I don't really play too aggressive here at all", Johnson told a news conference.

"The head was lightheaded, and I hung on pretty well, holed a couple of decent putts coming home just to limit the damage". I'm not putting myself under any pressure, I've sort of got things in a really nice perspective.

"Fell asleep at 10.30, no problem, and woke up wide at midnight, and took a sleeping pill about half past one, and didn't know what planet I was on when the alarm went at seven this morning", he said. "Not just this week, but going forward".

Starting on the back nine, two-time WGC victor McIlroy picked up shots on the 11th, 12th, 15th and 17th.

He almost pulled off a remarkable feat after the turn, coming close to acing the 305-yard first hole with a two iron.

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Despite losing the opening set to Kerber 5-7, the 33-year-old Hsieh managed to secure a hard-fought 6-4 victory in the second set. It was her first match since since splitting with Sascha Bajin last week. "I still feel like I have a lot to learn".

"I actually felt all right for most of the round, and (then) it really hit me and kind of felt drunk nearly the last five or six holes".

"It's starting to feel the way it did two years ago", he said.

Bryson DeChambeau (four over), Jordan Spieth (four over) and defending champion Phil Mickelson (eight over) will have to scramble mightily to get into any semblance of contention.

"For me, that's not the best way to prepare for what could be the biggest event of my life".

McIlroy has won two WGC events previously, but the last of those came in 2015. Got it going after a little bit there, made three in a row.

"It's really turned into one of the elite tournaments on the European Tour but we knew it was coming, he talked about it in Dubai at the end of past year and announced it officially yesterday".

He went on to win the Open Championship in 2014, having led by a stroke after the opening day's play, but he's led ten times after the opening round since 2012 and that's the only time he's gone on to win.

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