By Andrew Both
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) – World number one Rory McIlroy kept his word as he moved within one stroke of the early clubhouse lead in the second round of the $7.1 million Wells Fargo Championship on Friday.
The Northern Irishman said after his opening 70 that the Quail Hollow course was there to be had and he could hardly wait for his morning tee time.
McIlroy did not quite plunder the course in the manner he wanted, but five birdies in a flawless five-under-par 67 were enough to lift him into a share of third place with half the field back in the clubhouse.
Former world number one amateur Patrick Rodgers (68), playing on a sponsor exemption, and fellow American Martin Flores (67) led on eight-under 136, while overnight leader Robert Streb was among the day’s late starters.
McIlroy said good driving had been the key to his score, but lamented some mediocre iron play that prevented him from piling up more birdies.
I really found a good groove with the driver, the four-times major champion told reporters. My iron play wasn’t as sharp as it could have been, but a good score puts me right up there for the weekend.
Mentally I feel very sharp. I’m not putting myself under that much stress of having to save pars or anything.
McIlroy, 26, observed how much he has changed as a golfer since his maiden PGA Tour victory here five years ago.
Everything has changed, he said. I feel I’m a much better player. My stature is much higher. When I’m on the leaderboard, it carries a bit more weight.
I’m much better prepared and equipped to be in contention week-in and week-out, more grounded and mentally much better as well.
Co-leader Rodgers was the world’s top-ranked amateur before turning professional last year, and he has already won this year on the lower-tier Web.com circuit. He jumped at the chance to test his game this week against the game’s big guns.
I just watched Jordan Spieth win the Masters and make it look pretty easy, Rodgers, 22, said. Young guys are really ready to come out here and win and I feel no different.
That’s why I turned professional. I’m excited to get in the mix this weekend.
Rodgers, ranked 333rd in the world, played college golf for three years at Stanford University in California where he chased records held by a former alumnus named Tiger Woods. He ended up winning 11 collegiate events, the same number as Woods.
Whether Rodgers goes on to enjoy a similar professional career remains to be seen, but he has not made a bad start.
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