Three birdies over the last five holes also kept Rory McIlroy in the chase for No. 1 in the world.
“I just need to keep doing the same things, try to drive the ball in the fairway and give myself loads of opportunities, and try and take a few,” McIlroy said after shooting 67. “Because you don’t need to make tons of birdies out here.”
Maybe not, but that was the recipe for Brian Harman, who shattered the course record by three shots and took par on the 543-yard closing hole for 61.
Birdies also helped Tiger Woods, though not enough to offset a tee shot into the water on the par-3 fifth for a double bogey in his round of 68, which put him seven shots out of the lead.
Rose made five birdies in a nine-hole stretch in the middle of his round and was at 10-under until back-to-back bogeys, an example of how this course can stop momentum quickly. He wound up at 8-under 132 with Gillis, a 43-year-old journeyman who shot 64 and is atop the leaderboard for the first time after any round of a PGA Tour event.
McIlroy, who would have to win the Honda Classic to replace Luke Donald atop the world ranking, was at 7-under along with Dicky Pride, who birdied his last hole for 67.
Harman, Jimmy Walker (67) and Monday qualifier Vaughn Taylor (66) were another shot back.
The cut was at 141, the lowest since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National five years ago.
Proof of the low scoring came from Harman, the rookie from Georgia who never imagined standing in the 18th fairway with a chance to shoot 59 with an eagle on the par-5. He gave it his best shot, leaving a hybrid into the front bunker in an attempt to have a reasonable putt. He wound up missing a 5-footer and had to settle for par.
“Just one of those crazy days where everything comes together,” Harman said.
Woods stuffed an approach inside three feet for birdie, then had to scramble for bogey. He bounced a tee shot off a spectator and turned that into birdie, only to hit his next tee shot into the water for double bogey. He closed with two birdies.
McIlroy ran off nine consecutive pars – he missed two birdie chances from five feet and another from 12 feet – until he made bogey from the bunker on the 13th hole. He answered with back-to-back birdies, from tap-in range on the 14th and a 15-footer on the next hole, then finished with a two-putt from 65 feet.
“I had a few chances early on and didn’t take them,” McIlroy said. “Kept making pars and making pars, and broke that run with a bogey on 13 which was frustrating. But to bounce back from that and birdie three of the last five holes was nice, and puts me in great position going into the weekend.”
NATIONWIDE: In Panama City, Fla., Edward Loar made birdie on the final hole to finish with 2-under 68 and take a one-stroke lead after two rounds of the Panama Claro Championship at Panama Golf Club Course.
Aiken’s Matt Hendrix remains tied for 10th after shooting 70. Augusta’s Scott Parel shot 68 and climbed into a tie for 36th.