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Rory McIlroy earns first weekend tee time in two months with sizzling 66 in Wells Fargo Championship


CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Rory McIlroy joked he was going to punch in the address of Quail Hollow Club into his GPS to make sure he doesn’t miss his tee time for Saturday’s third round of the Wells Fargo Championship.

Then again, McIlroy has lost his bearings of late on the PGA Tour and hasn’t played on a weekend since finishing in a tie for 10th in the Arnold Palmer Invitational two months ago. The stretch included missed cuts in The Players Championship and the Masters and missing weekend play at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play.

But he’ll have a late tee time Saturday after he fired a 5-under-par 66 – his first subpar round since the Arnold Palmer Invitational – and vaulted up the leaderboard to stand just three shots out of the lead midway through round two.

That’s a familiar place for McIlroy at Quail Hollow. He won his first PGA Tour title here in 2010, added another in 2015, lost in a playoff in 2012 and has four other top-10s in nine starts.

Wells FargoLeaderboard | Photos | Friday tee times, TV info

McIlroy, who has slipped to No. 15 in the official world ranking and hasn’t won since the fall of 2019, said his comfort level here has made it easier for him to turn his fortunes around.

“Especially I feel like I’ve birdied a lot of the hard holes this week, which is nice confidence, but knowing that even if you don’t birdie a par 5 or you don’t take advantage of the easier holes, that you’re hitting it good enough that you can still make birdies on the tougher holes,” he said. “So that probably makes it a touch easier that I am here and I’m somewhere that I am very comfortable here where I’ve had some great success.”

The former World No. 1 and four-time major champion, who turned 32 Tuesday, has just six top-10s in 21 starts since golf returned last June after a 13-week break due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. But he’s in good position to win his 19th PGA Tour title and 28th title worldwide.

While he hasn’t been seen on the weekend on the PGA Tour for 60 days, he hasn’t wasted his time making the most of Saturdays and Sundays. He and his family went to the Bahamas for four days after missing the cut at the Masters. He went to a dinner parting hosted by U.S. Walker Cup captain Nathanial Crosby.

And he grinded working on his game.

McIlroy brought noted swing coach Pete Cowen on board while staying with longtime coach Michael Bannon to help him sort through issues.

“The one thing that I was really happy about coming in here this week was my iron play, felt like I really found something last week,” McIlroy said. “I didn’t get a chance to show it yesterday because I wasn’t finding the fairway very much, but today, just having some more opportunities to hit good iron shots and give myself birdie chances, I was able to show it a bit today and it was nice.

“I hit some really good shots into the par 3s and that’s something that I haven’t been doing for the last few months, so that was nice.”

As was his work with the driver. McIlroy’s bread-and-butter shot for so many years was hitting a big swinging draw with his driver. But for a couple years now, McIlroy said, he’s committed to hitting a fade. One big reason for the change, he said, have been technological improvements in the modern driver, which he said makes it more difficult for him to draw the ball.

“So I’ve had to adjust,” he said. “That’s how I’ve played most of my life, so it’s committing to seeing a different way to hit tee shots and it’s just, it’s taking a while to get used to it.”

Sure looked like he was used to it in the second round. And it sure looks like McIlroy is on the verge of winning for the first time in 550 days. At least he has a shot at it now that’s he’s got a weekend tee time.

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