- US PGA Champiosnhip
Nerveless McIlroy sets the standard at Valhalla
Rory McIlroy, looking for back-to-back major victories, holds a one-shot lead at the US PGA Championship after carding a 67 in his second round at a wet Valhalla Golf Club on Friday to move to 9-under par.
Following a delayed start due to inclement weather, McIlroy started slowly with a bogey on his third hole but then picked up two birdies and an eagle on 18, his ninth hole, to send him two shots clear of the field.
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While other players struggled in the rain, the Open champion dug in and while it was not vintage McIlroy off the tee, he scrambled well and holed important putts.
A perfectly stuck fairway wood on the par-5, seventh hole (his 16th) left McIlroy with eight foot to the pin but he was unable to convert for his second eagle of the day. If he wins this week, it will be one of the shots that goes into the highlight reel and there are not many players in the world who could have pulled it off.
McIlroy told Sky Sports: "I think it was a job well done. The conditions were very tricky whenever the rain was coming down obviously, and you sort of just had to wait for the moments when there was a break in the weather. I would have taken 67 going out this morning.
"Honestly, I'm not thinking about winning. I'm thinking about playing solid golf and every shot at a time and stick to a couple little thoughts I have out there - a couple little trigger words I have. It's been working well so just keep doing that for the next two days.
On the outrageous fairway wood shot, Mcilroy added: "The five-wood's been good to me this year, I've hit a couple of really good shots with the five-wood over the last couple months and that was another one."
Ryan Palmer posted a respectable round of 70 to move 7-under for the competition, following Thursday's heroics which saw him co-lead in the clubhouse.
Palmer said: "I knew the weather was going to be tough and when we started it was awful. I'm not sure we should have started when we did but I managed to grind it out with great saves on the front nine.
"I kind of struggled on the back. It's a great feeling to finish level-par today and I'll take the afternoon off to go dry off."
Palmer has one top-10 finish in his major history and the 37 year old believes his mental game has improved over the years.
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"I've learned to stay patient with myself and not get too ahead," Palmer added. "It's easy to get frustrated early in a tournament - I've been out here 12 years now so I've had lots of ups and downs so I knew my game was in good shape, it's just about getting a result and being patient this week."
Henrik Stenson flew under the radar for much of the morning but he is only four shots back after carding a 71. There were no fireworks from the Swede but he looks sure to challenge for a first major title.
Steve Stricker strung a beautiful round of golf together. He had an impressive front nine, going out in 32, but he wilted on the back nine and had to settle for a round of 68, 5-under for the championship.
The 47 year old may have never won a major title but he boasts 12 PGA Tour wins which will stand him in good stead as he looks to better a second-place finish in the US PGA in 1998.
Stricker said: "I see Rory's right back up there at the top so he's going to be tough to catch but I've made it through to the weekend and you never know what's going to happen."
He added: "The first nine holes the greens were perfect…they were smooth and good speed but when we got to the back nine they got a little chopped up and the guys going out this afternoon that will be a real concern for them because they are going to get marked up."
Canadian Graham DeLaet has never won a competition on the PGA Tour but he is only four shots off the pace after a round of 68.
However, McIlroy's playing partners struggled to get anything going. Martin Kaymer looks set to miss the projected cut with a 74 which saw him drop to 2-over, while Bubba Watson remains on the precipice following his mixed-bag 72, along with Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia.