NAPA (California) • Rory McIlroy lamented a "frustrating" putting performance in the Frys.com Open second round in northern California on Friday while Brendan Steele increased his lead to two shots despite shooting seven strokes worse than his opening round.
A 25-foot birdie at the first hole was an ideal start for Steele who shot an opening 63. But he failed to fire for the rest of the round and finished with a two-under 70 at the Silverado Resort in the opening event of the PGA Tour season.
The American is trying to become the first wire-to-wire winner of the event since Rocco Mediate did it in 2010.
"It's always tough to follow up a round like yesterday with anything even under par," he said.
"I think we've seen guys over the years follow 63 up usually with something around par.
"If you can go lower than that, you probably have a pretty good-sized lead."
Steele posted a 133 halfway total to head a group of four, including Jhonattan Vegas, who stumbled with a bogey at the par-five 18th after taking four strokes from 60 yards.
The Venezuelan (71) slipped back to 135 with Canadian Graham DeLaet (68) and Americans Will Wilcox (67) and Harold Varner (70).
Englishman Justin Rose (69) was among a group three strokes behind. McIlroy was six shots off the pace after shooting a 71 that included two birdies.
The world No. 3 collected both his birdies with mid-range putts but frittered away a few golden opportunities, including putts of three and five feet.
McIlroy said he had yet to find his touch on the greens since returning from an ankle injury at the PGA Championship in August. "Very frustrating," said the four-time Major champion.
" Whenever you don't see anything go in, it makes it harder and harder each and every hole that goes by.
"So, hopefully, (I) find something on the putting green tonight and then if I can get off to a good start in terms of holing putts tomorrow, hopefully, that can feed through."
Steele, whose lone victory came at the 2011 Texas Open, is coming off a solid season.
He posted a runner-up finish at his home event, the Humana Classic, a tie for 12th at the PGA Championship and was 50th in the FedExCup standings.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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