LOUISVILLE, Ky. – On a soggy day at Valhalla, Rory McIlroy put himself in a familiar position: leading the PGA Championship.
For Tiger Woods, this is also becoming the norm.
Another major disappointment.
McIlroy, the overwhelming favorite from Northern Ireland, started on the back nine after a 50-minute rain delay Friday, made a couple of early birdies, then claimed the outright lead for the first time when he rolled in a 30-foot eagle putt at the 18th hole.
McIlroy picked up two more birdies in his final three holes for a 4-under 67, sending him to the clubhouse with a two-stroke lead over Ryan Palmer.
Some of the other top contenders – including Lee Westwood and Kevin Chappell, who were tied with Palmer for the lead after the first round – were playing in the afternoon.
Woods shot another 74 after opening with a 74 and failed to make the cut.
As he approached the turn, things only got worse.
Woods lipped out a 3-foot birdie attempt at the third, missing a chance to gain some momentum. He followed with a bogey at No. 4, after driving into a fairway bunker, and took a double bogey at the sixth when he drove far left of the fairway and three-putted from 18 feet. Still reeling from that debacle, he yanked his tee shot at the par-5 seventh into a muddy bog, could only pitch up to the fairway, pulled the next shot behind the green, failed to reach the short grass with his chip, and made another bogey.
At that point, he was 4 over for the day, 7 over for the tournament and seemed to have little chance of making the cut. It would be only the fourth time he has failed to make the weekend at a major in his professional career.
McIlroy, on the other hand, is at the top of his game. He arrived at Valhalla having won his last two tournaments. He captured the British Open at Royal Liverpool with a wire-to-wire performance, and rallied for a victory at Firestone last weekend.
Midway through the final major of the year, he is once again the guy everyone is chasing.
“I’m feeling good about my game. I’m confident. I’m hitting the ball well for the most part,” McIlroy said. “I’m really in control of my game and my emotions. I need to do that over the weekend as well.”
Palmer shot 70, staying firmly in the mix at the only major championship that eluded another guy who shared the same name – Arnold Palmer.
Steve Stricker – a 47-year-old, part-time player who was picked as an assistant U.S. Ryder Cup captain this week – showed he’s still got plenty of game. He made four birdies on his first nine holes, giving him a share of the lead until McIlroy claimed it for himself.
His 68 left him four shots off the lead on what was shaping up to be a long day.
Also at 5 under were Graham DeLaet (68) and Henrik Stenson (71).
Jason Day surged into contention, playing his first eight holes at 5 under. He was just two strokes off the lead.
Looks like more of the same at damp Valhalla.
Park leads LPGA Classic: Inbee Park took the second-round lead Friday in the Meijer LPGA Classic, birdieing her first three holes en route to her second straight 5-under 66.
Park finished on the front nine, adding birdies on the par-5 fifth and eighth holes in her bogey-free round at Blythefield Country Club. The third-ranked South Korean player won six times last year and took the Manulife Financial in June in Canada for her 10th LPGA Tour title.
Fourth-ranked Suzann Pettersen was a stroke back. The Norwegian player matched the course record with a 64.
South Korea’s Mirim Lee also shot 64 to reach 8 under.
South Korea’s Amy Yang was fourth at 7 under after a 67.