Late slips halt Rory McIlroy’s charge at Quail Hollow

World No 3 finishes bogey-bogey in second round 69 to lie six shots off leader

 Rory McIlroy  waves to the crowd following an eagle on the seventh hole during the second round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Golf Club  in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photograph: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy waves to the crowd following an eagle on the seventh hole during the second round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Golf Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photograph: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

 

Defending champion Rory McIlroy roared into contention midway through his second round at the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina before a shabby ending saw him drop back down the field at Quail Hollow.

The world number three did well to avoid a double-bogey on the 18th hole – when he pitched to within a couple of feet of the pin having had to take a penalty drop after finding water with his second shot – to card a three-under 69 that moved him to two under, six shots behind clubhouse leader Andrew Loupe.

McIlroy’s wedge play was the key to his success, a brilliant chip-in eagle from 80 feet at the seventh kick-starting a run that saw him knock in three straight birdies to get to five under for his round after 10 holes

He was within four shots of Loupe at that stage, the American having earlier carded a one-under 71 to post a mark of eight under.

McIlroy failed to keep the foot down, making three bogeys on the final seven holes, with just one more birdie coming on the 14th.

Shane Lowry was two shots outside the projected cut mark of one over after carding a a one-over second round of 73, while Pádraig Harrington will miss the weekend after a five-over 77 left him on seven over.

Phil Mickelson used his short game pedigree to claw his way within three strokes of Loupe.

The five-times Major champion hit only nine greens in regulation but used his vaunted touch around the greens to piece together a two-under 70.

He got up-and-down to save par on eight occasions, his lone bogey coming at his final hole, where he drove into a bunker.

“I scrapped it around,” said Mickelson. “My short game was sharp. I hit a lot of good iron shots, but I had to play for par a little too many times because I didn’t put it in play off the tee,” he said.

Loupe, who shared the first-round lead with fellow American Steve Wheatcroft, had a chance to build a substantial advantage, only to bogey two of his final three holes for a 71.

“It’s half-time,” said the long-hitting Loupe, who is without a win in 53 starts on the PGA Tour and understands a 36-hole lead counts for little.

American Roberto Castro was one shot behind Loupe on seven under after a fine six-under 66.

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