Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 Thursday, was a stroke back. I feel like I'm hitting good putts and they are just sliding by the edges. "It's something I will never forget, especially having had such a big following here, which was great".
Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus.
Tyrrell Hatton, ranked 17th in the world, and two-time major champion Martin Kaymer also shot 3-under 69s. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.
"I hit most of the middle of the greens".
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses", Johnson told BBC Sport on Wednesday.
Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.
Among the notables who will miss weekend play are European Ryder Cup veterans Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood, who missed by one shotWorld number six Justin Rose made a birdie on the 18th to finish on two under par. Of late, the proponents of change have included the likes Tiger Woods and USGA director Mike Davis, who said increased distance is affecting the game "in a bad way".
But McIlroy's 25ft putt after a sublime approach to the par-five 18th ensured he finished with momentum in his first event since ending his 2017 season early to overcome a rib injury.
McIlroy eagled the last and completed 36 holes without a bogey
"A couple of those bad swings cost me, " Rahm said.
Top-ranked Dustin Johnson drove his ball into a lake at the ninth, his closing hole, to finish with par 72. The 23-year-old Spaniard had the lowest score of his tour career, topping 64 two years ago at Congressional in his first round as a pro. Two shots behind, still no time to look at leaderboards just yet, but it's nice to know where you stand.
English compatriot Paul Casey, who has twice been a victor here, shot a seven-under par 65, which included an eagle and five birdies, is at nine-under for the Championship.
Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.
In Dubai, a 13-year-old golfer playing in a group with Tommy Fleetwood and Dustin Johnson hit a better tee shot than both of them. "La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus".
"It felt like I..."
"I started off with 11 pars and could have been a lot better than that". It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. "It doesn't matter how long I play for. My driving has been above average".