Sergio Garcia, on Saturday
Louisville: The early starters took full advantage of receptive, rain-softened conditions at Valhalla Golf Club, here, on Saturday.
Attacking the pins at every opportunity, American Brooks Koepka, Spaniard Sergio Garcia and Scotland’s Marc Warren fired five-under 66s to rocket up the leaderboard in the year’s final Major, all of them finishing at five-under 208.
Former US Open champion Justin Rose, who made the cut by just one shot, also made a storming start with five birdies in his first 13 holes before losing a bit of momentum over the closing stretch.
On Friday, world No. 1 McIlroy, who has produced spectacular form over the past month, seized a one-shot overnight lead after carding a second-round 67 on a wet, ultra-long Valhalla layout.
The 25-year-old was an overwhelming favourite heading into the year’s final Major, having completed a wire-to-wire victory at last month’s British Open before winning the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last Sunday in his next start.
So far, he has fully justified that billing in posting a 36-hole total of nine-under 133, leaving the rest of his rivals to play catch-up over the last two rounds.
Jason Day, seeking his first Major, was tied for second with veteran American Jim Furyk at eight under, with Finland’s Mikko Ilonen and Americans Rickie Fowler and Ryan Palmer a further stroke back in fourth.
Fourteen players were bunched within four shots of the lead heading into the second round, including five-times Major champion Phil Mickelson of the United States and England’s former world No. 1 Lee Westwood.
Four-time champion Tiger Woods, however, ended a miserable week prematurely when he missed the cut at a Major for only the fourth time as a professional, looking tournament rusty in both rounds as he carded successive 74s.
The cut fell at one-over par, leaving Woods well out of the picture after he finished at six over. Tournament rusty after having surgery in late March to treat a pinched nerve in his back, Woods struggled to an opening 74 on Thursday and he tumbled further backwards by dropping four shots in his first seven holes on Friday.
“That was tough,” the 38-year-old American told reporters after a round that included just two birdies, three bogeys and a double. “I hit a lot of shots out there, 74 of them. It was a long day.
“I tried as hard as I could. That’s about all I got.”
Also missing the cut was Anirban Lahiri. He gave it all, but it was not enough to keep him for the weekend, as he missed the cut by a fair margin.
Lahiri added a second-round 73 to the 72 he had on Thursday to get to three-over 145. Lahiri admitted making far too many mistakes and was also clearly somewhat rusty as he was still recovering from chicken pox.
“That’s no excuse. Yes, I have not been 100 per cent but even then I should have played much better. I made far too many mistakes. Five bogeys in a round is way too many,” he said. (Agencies)