McIlroy well in the hunt at Quail Hollow after second round 71

World number two says he’s back on his game after tweaking his swing, Harrington struggles again and drops to 11 over par

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits a tee shot on the 3rd hole during the second round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow. Photograph: Tyler Lecka/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits a tee shot on the 3rd hole during the second round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow. Photograph: Tyler Lecka/Getty Images

Fri, May 3, 2013, 23:35

His season to date has lacked a light bulb moment, that flash of inspiration. Maybe, finally, Rory McIlroy has found it in the Wells Fargo championship at a familiar hunting ground of Quail Hollow where the Ulsterman moved into the weekend in contention to end a barren spell of six months since his last tour win.

McIlroy, who celebrates his 24th birthday on Saturday, fired a second round 71 to add to his opening 67 for a midway total of 138, six-under-par, which left him poised to strike.

Three shots behind midway leader Phil Mickelson, McIlroy explained: “I’m back to what I’m supposed to do, which is playing golf and trying to win golf tournaments,” said the world number two, who attributed the return to form to finding a missing link to his swing in working with coach Michael Bannon in Florida last week.

He explained: “It was only a little thing but it’s made a good difference. I think it’s big strides because my game wasn’t where it should have been at all at the start of the year.

“I got into a couple of bad habits on my swing, and it just took me a little bit of time to get out of them . . . this is the sort of golf I expect to play.”

In cool conditions in North Carolina, McIlroy’s second round got off to a backward start with a three-putt bogey on the 10th, his opening hole, and another dropped shot on the 18th before he moved up gears on his back nine with birdies on the first (where he hit a lob wedge approach to four feet), the fourth and the eighth.

McIlroy, whose second Major win in capturing the US PGA last August led to a remarkable winning streak, is enthused about his current wellbeing after a disappointing season to date which hit a low point in the Honda Classic in March when he walked off the course during his second round.

“I felt like at the first few events of the year I had a big miss to the right and I think I’ve eliminated that, which is a good thing,” said McIlroy, who reached the midpoint in a group on 138 that included Lee Westwood.

Pádraig Harrington, who persevered with a belly putter after his nightmare opening round of 80, continued to struggle and was positioned at the end of the field (on 11-over) after his second round.