Rory McIlroy plays his way back into the Wells Fargo Championship

Séamus Power added a 72 to his opening 71 as Shane Lowry’s 73 left him two-over-par

 Ireland’s Rory McIlroy after sinking his putt on the first green during the second round of the Wells Fargo Championship. Photograph: EPA

Ireland’s Rory McIlroy after sinking his putt on the first green during the second round of the Wells Fargo Championship. Photograph: EPA

 

Rory McIlroy was more like as his old self as he played his way back into the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Golf Club in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Not only was his swagger back, and a smile rather than a grimace, so too did his driver behave as he shot a second round 66 to go with his opening 72 for midway total of four-under-par 138, lurking just two shots adrift of leaders Matt Wallace, Patrick Rodgers and Gary Woodland.

If not quite like flicking a switch, the Northern Irishman was transformed with his driver in hand which contributed to a strokes gained tee-to-green statistic of 5.66 that was his best on the PGA Tour dating back to 2019.

“The one thing I was really happy about coming in here was my iron play, I felt like I found something last week. I didn’t get much chance to show it (in the first round) because I wasn’t finding the fairway very much, but today I had more opportunities to hit good iron shots and give myself birdie chances,” said McIlroy, who hit 15 greens in regulation in claiming six birdies and a lone bogey to leapfrog into contention.

McIlroy, without a win on tour going back to the WGC-HSBC in December 2019, took three weeks off after missing the cut at the Masters and worked with Pete Cowen at home in Florida before returning to competition, added: “When you’re playing bad, you feel so far away; and when you’re playing good, you always think to yourself, ‘how did I feel like I was so far away?’ It’s such fine margins . . . I worked hard after Augusta, took a week off and reset, which I needed, but then I put my head down and worked hard and at least felt better about everything coming in here.”

A two-time winner of the Wells Fargo, in 2010 and again in 2015, McIlroy’s move into the business part of affairs will provide an extra pep in his step going into the weekend, where Séamus Power - who added a 72 to his opening 71 for 143 - will also seek to gain some forward momentum.

Shane Lowry paid a heavy price for a wild drive on the Par 5 15th, where he ran up a double bogey seen en route to a second round 73 for a two-over-par 144.

European Tour

On the European Tour, Niall Kearney - the 33-year-old Dubliner - continued his strong run of form with a second round 64 for a midway total of 10-under-par 132 for a share of 11th place, four strokes behind leader Adri Arnaus.

“I’ve got a good process going, a good game plan for the course and I’m just trying to let it happen rather than trying to force it,” said Kearney, who included 10 birdies in his round with his putter again proving a strong part of his armoury.

Paul Dunne recovered from a bad stretch - incurring two bogeys and a double from the fourth to the seventh - to sign for a 71 for 136, six-under, to lie in tied-46th to survive into the weekend. But Cormac Sharvin, Jonathan Caldwell and Tom McKibbin all missed the cut.

Meanwhile, Michael Hoey remained in contention in the Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt on the Challenge Tour where the 42-year-old’s second round 71 for a midway total of 10-under-par 134 left him a shot behind leaders Wilco Nienaber, Jaco Ahlers and Henric Sturehed with 10 players unable to complete their rounds due to fading light.

Collated second round scores & totals in the USPGA Wells Fargo Championship, North Carolina, USA (USA unless stated, Par 71):

136 Patrick Rodgers 68 68, Matt Wallace (Eng) 69 67, Gary Woodland 67 69

137 Kramer Hickok 68 69

138 Rory McIlroy (NIrl) 72 66, Keith Mitchell 67 71, Carlos Ortiz (Mex) 70 68, Scott Piercy 70 68, Scott Stallings 69 69

139 Abraham Ancer (Mex) 69 70, Luke List 67 72, Phil Mickelson 64 75, Bubba Watson 70 69

140 Stewart Cink 71 69, Joel Dahmen 68 72, Emiliano Grillo (Arg) 74 66, Brian Harman 68 72, Matt Jones (Aus) 69 71, Satoshi Kodaira (Jpn) 68 72, Ben Martin 69 71, Patrick Reed 71 69, Roger Sloan (Can) 76 64, Vincent Whaley 72 68

141 Keegan Bradley 66 75, Corey Conners (Can) 69 72, Cameron Davis (Aus) 70 71, Harris English 72 69, Talor Gooch 70 71, Viktor Hovland (Nor) 69 72, Patton Kizzire 69 72, Russell Knox (Sco) 70 71, Peter Malnati 67 74, Ryan Moore 69 72, Pat Perez 69 72, Kyle Stanley 67 74, Kevin Streelman 69 72, Brian Stuard 68 73, Nick Taylor (Can) 74 67, Jhonattan Vegas (Ven) 70 71, Johnson Wagner 73 68

142 Jason Dufner 71 71, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 67 75, Brandon Hagy 73 69, Joaquin Niemann (Chi) 71 71, J. T. Poston 72 70, Ted Potter Jr. 71 71, Andrew Putnam 70 72, Charl Schwartzel (Rsa) 71 71, Justin Thomas 69 73, Tim Wilkinson (Nzl) 74 68

143 Wyndham Clark 71 72, Lanto Griffin 75 68, Hank Lebioda 72 71, Kyoung-Hoon Lee (Kor) 66 77, Hunter Mahan 68 75, Matthew NeSmith 75 68, Sean O’Hair 70 73, Chengtsung Pan (Tai) 74 69, Xander Schauffele 72 71, Sepp Straka (Aut) 69 74, Richy Werenski 70 73, Aaron Wise 72 71, Seamus Power (Irl) 71 72

144 Jonas Blixt (Swe) 71 73, K. J. Choi (Kor) 70 74, Bryson DeChambeau 70 74, Michael Gligic (Can) 77 67, Russell Henley 74 70, Beau Hossler 73 71, Zach Johnson 69 75, Shane Lowry (Irl) 71 73, Brendan Steele 72 72, D. J. Trahan 74 70, Kevin Tway 73 71, Bo Van Pelt 72 72, Jimmy Walker 72 72, J. J. Spaun 69 75

The following players missed the Cut:

145 Byeong-Hun An (Kor) 76 69, Ryan Armour 71 74, Akshay Bhatia 73 72, Joseph Bramlett 70 75, Patrick Cantlay 72 73, Jason Day (Aus) 72 73, Luke Donald (Eng) 72 73, Lucas Glover 74 71, Harry Higgs 74 71, Nate Lashley 69 76, Jamie Lovemark 70 75, Troy Merritt 70 75, Robert Streb 71 74, Cameron Tringale 72 73, Harold Varner III 72 73, Xinjun Zhang (Chn) 71 74

146 Tony Finau 73 73, Brice Garnett 76 70, Adam Hadwin (Can) 74 72, James Hahn 72 74, Bo Hoag 71 75, Tom Hoge 70 76, Mackenzie Hughes (Can) 74 72, Tom Lewis (Eng) 75 71, Maverick McNealy 72 74, Francesco Molinari (Ita) 72 74, Rob Oppenheim 72 74, Ian Poulter (Eng) 72 74, Jon Rahm (Spa) 76 70, Doc Redman 72 74, Adam Schenk 74 72, Chase Seiffert 71 75, Michael Thompson 72 74, Erik van Rooyen (Rsa) 73 73, Kristoffer Ventura (Nor) 74 72, Will Zalatoris 71 75

147 Scott Brown 71 76, Rafael Cabrera (Spa) 74 73, Rickie Fowler 70 77, Will Gordon 74 73, John Huh 74 73, Robby Shelton 74 73, Martin Trainer 74 73

148 Rafael Campos (Pur) 69 79, Bill Haas 76 72, Cameron Percy (Aus) 72 76, Lucas Herbert (Aus) 76 72

149 Bronson Burgoon 79 70, Chesson Hadley 72 77, David Hearn (Can) 71 78, Tyler McCumber 74 75, Vaughn Taylor 72 77

150 Ryan Brehm 76 74, Mark Hubbard 70 80, Sung Jae Im (Kor) 68 82, Sebastian Munoz (Col) 73 77, Grayson Murray 73 77, Chez Reavie 71 79, Rory Sabbatini (Svk) 72 78, Sebastian Cappelen (Den) 74 76, Patrick Cover 75 75

151 Austin Cook 78 73, J. B. Holmes 78 73

152 Scott Harrington 75 77, Kelly Kraft 73 79, Denny McCarthy 77 75, Sam Ryder 74 78

153 Max Homa 77 76, Adam Long 77 76, D. A. Points 77 76, Keenan Huskey 77 76

154 Tyler Duncan 72 82, Sung-Hoon Kang (Kor) 75 79, Michael Kim 73 81

155 Justin Suh 71 84

156 Henrik Norlander (Swe) 80 76

161 Cory Schneider 81 80

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