Rory McIlroy has big day in second round of Wells Fargo tournament

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The first day of the Wells Fargo Championship saw an old face emerge atop the leaderboard. The second day saw another familiar golfer surge up it.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, who started the day at 1 over par, shot a 5-under 66 to finish 4-under for the tournament Friday. As of early Friday afternoon, he was two shots behind leaders Matt Wallace, Gary Woodland and Patrick Rodgers.

Phil Mickelson, who led by two strokes after the first round, shot a 75 on Friday, and is currently at 3 under.

McIlroy hasn’t won a PGA Tour event since November 2019, when he took home the WBC-HSBC Champions tournament.

He could end that drought if he continues to play the way he did on Friday.

McIlroy has had an up-and-down 2021 season. He has three top 10 finishes in 12 events this season, but has missed the cut three times, including twice in his last three tournaments.

On Thursday, he finished toward the middle of the pack, birdieing two holes and bogeying three.

But he was on fire Friday, especially on the back nine, when he birdied Holes 14, 15, and 17. He followed up that with a birdie on Holes 1 and 3. He finished Friday’s round with six birdies and one bogey. The rest were pars.

McIlroy said he’s had to convince himself that he’s closer to winning than he is.

“When you play the way I played sort of through that stretch in March and into April, you’re going to get a little bit — you’re going to feel like you’re not as close as you probably are,” McIlroy said. “But I worked hard after Augusta, I put my head — I 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.”

Perhaps his best shot came on the par-3 17th hole. McIlroy hit his ball 187 yards off the tee, which landed just seven feet from the hole.

He made his putt for birdie.

McIlroy is no stranger to the Wells Fargo Tournament. He won it in 2010 and 2015 and holds the course records for best score, and largest margin of victory. When he won in 2015, he shot a 267 and won by seven strokes over Patrick Rodgers and Webb Simpson.

In 2010, he won by four strokes over Mickelson.

The crowds weren’t nearly full as previous tournaments pre-COVID, but there were a good number of fans at the tournament. It was a bright and mild sunny day Friday, and McIlroy had one of the bigger crowds to follow him.

“Especially just having crowds back in general is good, but especially here in Charlotte where I’ve had some great success and I feed off that as well,” he said.

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