Rory McIlroy storms to top at Valhalla

Rory McIlroy  hits out of the bunker on the 12th hole during the second round of the USPGA
Rory McIlroy hits out of the bunker on the 12th hole during the second round of the USPGA

Rory McIlroy was the player the main contenders were chasing at the 96th US PGA Championship on Friday.

The World Number One recovered from a slow start to boost his chances of a second major title in succession in the weather-affected second day at Valhalla.

Play was delayed for a spell as heavy rain flooded parts of the course.

But the Northern Ireland star made light of the difficult conditions and finished the day four-under to post the early clubhouse lead at nine-under.McIlroy briefly dropped three shots off the lead when he bogeyed the par-four 12th, his third hole of the day, but bounced back with a birdie on the next and made another from 18 feet on the 15th as more rain fell at Valhalla.

And when the 25-year-old Open champion holed from 30 feet for an eagle on the par-five 18th, he suddenly held a two-shot lead over US Ryder Cup vice-captain Steve Stricker and fellow American Ryan Palmer.

“I didn’t get off to the best of starts but I righted the ship well, caught fire a little bit round the turn and am really happy with four under par,” said McIlroy, who has carded 12 successive sub-par scores.

“I’m feeling good about my game, I’m confident and hitting the ball well for the most part.

“I’m in control of my game and my emotions and I will need to do that over the weekend as well.”

McIlroy had not looked in top form in the early stages of his round, pushing his opening drive into the crowd on the par-five 10th and failing to convert a birdie putt from 10 feet, although a par was at least two shots better than he managed there on Thursday after hooking his second shot out of bounds.

Another birdie chance went begging on the 11th and the world number one then bogeyed the 12th, pulling his drive into the gallery and failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker.

McIlroy, who followed his Open victory with a first World Golf Championship title in the Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday, got back on track with birdies at the 13th and 15th and missed from six feet for another on the 16th after a towering four-iron approach from 224 yards.

But he made amends from much longer range on the 18th to reach the turn in 33 and pile the pressure on the chasing pack.