SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Rory McIlroy's last-minute decision to play in the Texas Open is looking like a good call.
The world's No. 2 golfer, struggling with inconsistency this year following an offseason equipment change, put together one of his best rounds this season — matching the low round of the day with a 5-under par 67 on Friday.
McIlroy moved to 5 under for the tournament and within three shots of tournament leader Billy Horschel, receiving a much-needed boost of confidence heading into next week's Masters.
"I want to play well, and I know if I play well, I'll have a great chance to win," McIlroy said.
The former world No. 1 only decided to play in the tournament late last week, in a bid for as many competitive rounds as possible after underperforming in his first four tournaments this season.
He didn't anticipate an encounter with the native plant life when he signed up for the Greg Norman-designed Oaks Course at TPC.
McIlroy had just that on Friday, bogeying No. 9 after driving into the rough and catching his left shin on a cactus.
The misstep dropped McIlroy to 1 under, but he rebounded with key putts on the final three holes for birdies — finishing with seven birdies overall — and pulled within reach of the leaders entering the weekend.
"It was a good way to finish," McIlroy said. "It will definitely make dinner taste a little nicer tonight and give me a couple of more hours in bed tomorrow morning."
The 23-year-old two-time major winner is three shots back of Horschel, who birdied his last two holes to post his second straight 4-under 68.
A group of three players — Daniel Summerhays, Charley Hoffman and Steven Bowditch — are two shots back at 6 under, while McIlroy is tied with six others at 5 under.
Thursday's co-leaders, Matt Bettencourt and Peter Tomasulo, each shot 1-over 73s and fell four shots off the lead.
Bettencourt went as low as 8 under in the surprisingly calm weather on Friday morning before falling back after a stretch of three bogeys in four holes once the wind picked up a bit.
Summerhays also got as low as 7 under before falling back with a bogey on No. 9, but it was Horschel who separated himself with his late flurry.
Horschel jumped from 60th to 24th on the money list after a second-place finish at last week's Houston Open. He closed out Thursday's round with a birdie, and he one-upped that on Friday — closing with a pair of 11-foot birdie putts on No. 17 and 18 to vault into first.
"Today, I knew there was not going to be very much wind, so you had to take advantage of this golf course," Horschel said. "I warmed up really well; probably hit the best I have on the range in a month and a half before a round."
He needed 28 putts on Friday after taking only 25 a day earlier, but Horschel hit 11 of 14 fairways after hitting only seven the day before.