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McIlroy recovers after slugglish start

ESPN staff
May 3, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Rory McIlroy was strong in his final nine holes on the second day at North Carolina © Getty Images
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Wells Fargo Championship leaderboard

Rory McIlroy recovered from a difficult start to the second round of the Wells Fargo Championship on Friday - while Lee Westwood had a solid day to remain in contention alongside the Northern Irishman.

The world No. 2 was tied for the lead with several other players on five-under on Thursday, and looking to seize the initiative early on, McIlroy instead slipped down the leaderboard.

However, the former champion at Quail Hollow - in what was his maiden PGA Tour triumph - put the disappointment of dropping two shots in his opening nine holes behind him to remain near the top of the leaderboard after a solid round of 71.

Beginning on the back nine, McIlroy made a terrible start to the round as he three-putted for a bogey on the 10th but, desperate to avoid a second bogey in three holes, the Northern Irishman slotted in par from seven feet on the 12th.

He then managed to get up-and-down for par on the 17th, but could not avoid a second bogey of the round on the following hole after missing the green.

McIlroy superbly recovered on the front nine as he registered birdies on the first and fourth holes - aided by strong tee-offs - and along with six pars was able to record a third birdie on the eighth and finish on six-under.

"That was a nice little wake up call," McIlroy said on his start. "Apart from that, I played well. I gave myself plenty of chances again, didn't hole as many putts as yesterday, but you're not going to hole every putt on these greens. So as long as I keep giving myself chances that is the most important thing."

McIlroy admitted he initially struggled with the pace of the course.

"The greens were a lot faster today than they happened to be yesterday afternoon," he said. "It took a little bit of time to get adjusted. But I think this week it's all about fairways and greens. If you can do that, not every putt's going to drop, but I think if you've given yourself the chances, you take a few of them and you'll be right there."

Westwood carded a fine 68 to end on six-under alongside McIlroy. The Englishman fired in six birdies and only dropped two shots in what was an excellent day for the former world No. 1.

"I've always played well here," Westwood said. "I played nicely last year and finished fifth. I guess you get rewarded for hitting it straight and penalised for missing it off line. Normally the greens are very firm. You have to think your way around and position the ball. This week you can be a little more aggressive because it is softer."

The lead is currently held by four-time major champion Phil Mickelson, who stormed to the front of the pack at nine-under thanks to a round of 67, with one of his six birdies a lengthy 39-foot putt on the ninth.

Fellow American Nick Watney is among a group of three players two shots behind Mickelson at seven-under. Rod Pampling is on six-under like McIlroy and Westwood, as is Jason Kokrak, while Lucas Glover is one shot behind them.

Elsewhere, Sergio Garcia attracted attention more than once on Friday. First, the Spaniard hit a six-foot putt with a wedge on the third hole - successfully avoiding a spike-mark on his line - then, controversially, he was accused by a television viewer of misplacing his ball on the 17th - with replays suggesting he placed his ball closer to the hole.

Garcia was eventually cleared after rules officials investigated the case.

"I said to them, the way I've been brought up in this game by my father is that the game is bigger than anybody else," Garcia said. "If this is going to lead people to think I'm a cheater, I'd rather get a two-stroke penalty and move on than not get a two-stroke penalty and have people think I'm cheating.

"Obviously, we talked about it for awhile. I gave them the explanation. I tried to put it in the same spot that it was."

Garcia is currently tied for 13th on four-under.

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