McIlroy holds slim 1-shot lead at Valhalla


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Rory McIlroy has moved into a familiar position after two rounds of the PGA Championship. McIlroy carded a 4-under 67 on Friday and grabbed a 1-shot lead at Valhalla.

The 2012 PGA Champion finished 36 holes at 9-under-par 133. McIlroy has won his last two starts at the Open Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

A pair of accomplished players moved within one of McIlroy’s lead. Jason Day, who won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February, fired a 6-under 65, the low round of the day, to jump into a share of second at minus-8. Day was joined there by former U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk, who shot 68 in round three.

Rickie Fowler, who has finished inside the top-5 at each of the first three majors, fired a 5-under 66 to jump into a tie for fourth at 7-under 135. He stands alongside first-round co-leader Ryan Palmer (70) and Mikko Ilonen (68).

Phil Mickelson carded a 4-under 67 to end 36 holes at minus-6. He shares seventh place with Bernd Wiesberger (68).

Steve Stricker (68), Henrik Stenson (71), Louis Oosthuizen (67) and first- round co-leader Lee Westwood (72) are among eight players tied for eighth at 5-under 137.

Four-time PGA Champion Tiger Woods birdied two of his last four holes, but that only got him back to 3-over for his round. He posted his second straight 74 to end at 6-over 148. He missed the cut by five strokes. That was just the fourth time as a professional that Woods missed the cut in a major.

“It was sore. No doubt it was sore. It went out on me on the range. Just had to play through it,” Woods said of his back. “I tried as hard as I could. That’s about all I got. Unfortunately, just didn’t play well. So consequently a pair of 74s is not very good.”

Early in the day, there was a 45-minute weather delay due to rain, which caused water to pond on the greens at Valhalla. Afternoon tee times were delayed 50 minutes.

“Conditions were obviously a little tougher than they were yesterday and especially on our front nine,” said McIlroy. “You needed to stay really patient, because the rain was coming down pretty heavily at times.”

McIlroy, who has eight wins on both the PGA and European Tours, moved into position to win his fourth major. He parred his first two holes, then stumbled to a bogey on No. 12. He bounced back with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 13th.

The Ulsterman moved to minus-6 with a birdie on No. 15. He vaulted into the lead at the par-5 18th, where he poured in a 31-footer for eagle.

Around the turn, McIlroy stumbled to a bogey on the second, his 11th. He ran off four pars in a row from the third, and Palmer joined him at 7-under.

McIlroy regained the lead with a 2-putt birdie on the par-5 seventh as his eagle effort just slid by the edge. After his birdie putt hung on the lip on No. 8, McIlroy capped his round with a 16-foot birdie effort on the ninth. That gave him a 2-shot lead.

“I was able to make a few birdies on the back nine and to finish off (my first nine) with that eagle, which was nice. Pretty scrappy, to be honest, around the start of the front nine,” admitted McIlroy. “But a couple of key up-and- downs, which were pretty important, and then to birdie two of the last three, that feels good. Really happy with the day’s work and another great chance to win a major championship going into the weekend.”

Day began to make his move with a 17-foot birdie putt on the second. That was one of seven birdies that No. 2 yielded all day. He followed with a 5-footer for birdie on the fourth.

The Australian drained a 14-foot eagle try on the seventh, then rolled in a 6- footer for birdie on No. 8 to move to minus-7 and within two of the lead.

The 2011 and 2013 U.S. Open runner-up parred six in a row from the ninth. Day’s approach at the 15th found a sand trap and he blasted to seven feet. He missed the par putt to slip three back.

Day fought back as he made a 6-footer for birdie at 17 before he got up and down for birdie at the par-5 18th to get within one.

“I played great. I got off to a great start today. That’s obviously the last thing that I expected to shoot 30 on the front nine. But you know, I put some good shots together out there today to give myself the opportunities out there to really take advantage of the front nine,” Day explained. “Obviously, the back nine is just a little tougher. A little disappointed that I had one bogey on the back nine, but I came home strong with a couple birdies at 17 and 18.”

Furyk birdied the third and fourth, both from inside 11 feet. A 24-foot birdie putt on the seventh got Furyk within one of the lead at minus-8.

Last year’s PGA runner-up faltered to bogeys on the 10th and 12th to slide three back. He parred four in a row to remain there before matching Day’s closing.

Furyk dropped his second shot inside 13 feet at the 17th and he converted that birdie putt. At the last, Furyk missed the green to the left, but got up and down for birdie to share second with Day.

“It was nice to get off to a nice start, I birdied three and four, to start off the day, so 2-under quick,” Furyk said. “I missed a couple of birdie putts, one in particular on 15, but was able to make a nice birdie at 17 and get the ball up and down for birdie at 18. So kind of finished off the day well again.”

NOTES

McIlroy owned the 36-hole lead for the sixth time in a PGA Tour event, and for the third time in a major … McIlroy has won three of the previous five times he was in that position … Kevin Chappell, the other first-round co-leader, struggled to a 3-over 74 and fell into a tie for 17th … Four players withdrew during the second round — Kiradech Aphibarnrat (knee), Ben Crane (back), Boo Weekley (shoulder) and Angel Cabrera (shoulder) … The cut line fell at 1-over-par 143 with 74 players making it to the weekend … Among those joining Woods in not playing the final two rounds were U.S. Open champ Martin Kaymer, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson, 1997 PGA Champion Davis Love III, 2011 PGA winner Keegan Bradley, 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, Jordan Spieth, John Daly, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Matteo Manassero.

 

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