WASHINGTON (AFP) - Former US Open champion Gary Woodland headlined the leading trio at Quail Hollow on Friday (May 7), where two-time winner Rory McIlroy was in the mix along with five-time Major champion Phil Mickelson.
Woodland, the 2019 US Open winner who has struggled of late, carded a two-under 69 for a six-under total of 136 at the Wells Fargo Championship, where he was joined by England's Matt Wallace and American Patrick Rodgers.
Wallace, a four-time European Tour winner who is gunning for a first US PGA Tour title, had five birdies in his 67 while Rodgers posted a 68 highlighted by a 13-foot eagle putt at the seventh.
The three were one stroke in front of Kramer Hickock, who posted a 69 for 137.
McIlroy, who was outside the projected cut line after a first-round one-over 72, grabbed six birdies in a 66 to head a group on 138 - just two shots off the lead.
Mickelson, who held the overnight lead after a sparkling 64, was 11 shots worse in the second round, but his four-over 75 left him in a group only three strokes off the pace on 139.
Woodland, who said his missed cut at Innisbrook last week marked the "rock bottom" of a downward trend that all started with a left hip injury and his attempt to play through pain, said a phone consultation with coach Butch Harmon and in-person work with Pete Cowen had helped him start to get back to what he was doing "when I was hitting it well".
"I've seen some shots this week that I just haven't seen in a long time," he said. "The golf swing feels so much better. Confidence has gone way up, which I did not have really in the last year."
Wallace, meanwhile, thinks he's trending toward a first US title, after a third-place finish at the Texas Open last month.
"I'm on a nice run of form and this is where you want to be in golf, trying to win big tournaments," he said.
Former world No. 1 McIlroy, meanwhile, is headed to the weekend for the first time in four starts, having missed the cut at the Players Championship, failing to reach the weekend at the WGC Match Play, and missing the cut at the Masters.
The Northern Ireland star, a four-time Major winner, hit just five fairways but found 14 of 18 greens.
"I felt like I found something with my iron play last week. I didn't get a chance to show it yesterday because I wasn't finding the fairway much. But having some more opportunities today, I was able to show it a bit and it was nice.
"I played some really good shots into the par-threes and that's something that I haven't been doing for the last few months, so that was nice."
Mickelson's 75 included two balls in the water, including his tee shot at the par-three 17th that led to a double-bogey and, he said, epitomised his recent troubles maintaining focus.
"I think kind of an example of what I've been talking about is like on 17 we're standing over the ball and I'm changing my mind and I'm changing the shot, moving the clubhead a little bit... instead of backing away and kind of refocusing, I just kind of hit it and I'm not really kind of aware of what I'm doing," the 50-year-old said.