Four Europeans were in the top six as the PGA Championship second round concluded at windy Kiawah Island on Friday night - but it was Tiger Woods who held centre-stage.
Joint 14th after an opening 69, the 14-major champion made a significant move towards a record-equalling fifth victory in the event.
With the 1991 Ryder Cup venue living up to its reputation as a real monster in high winds, Woods finished on four under after posting a one under 71.
And that was good enough to take a share of the lead into the weekend with old sparring partner Vijay Singh and Carl Pettersson on four under, with Ian Poulter on three under.
Rory McIlroy and Irish Open winner Jamie Donaldson are two strokes off the lead on two under par.
Graeme McDowell remains in contention on level par, as does Padraig Harrington on two over, while Michael Hoey and Darren Clarke also made the cut on four and five over respectively.
McIlroy, joint second overnight, needed to dig deep when he had four bogeys in the first 13 holes, but even though he dropped another stroke at the 15th it came either side of two birdies.
Singh's 69 made him the only player to break 70, while just four more - Phil Mickelson, Poulter, Woods and Hoey - broke the par of 72.
Mickelson improved to level par with a 71 and Hoey's 70 took him from six over to four over.
McDowell, four under overnight, fell back alongside Mickelson with a 76, while world number one Luke Donald made the cut on six over following the same second round score.
"I actually played decent and got nothing out of it," Donald said. "I hung in there pretty well and I hit a lot of shots that I thought would give me a putt for birdie and I ended up taking bogey.
"The frustration builds, but I'm not making any excuses. There's still other things to look for and it makes me more determined to keep working hard."
Harrington also shot 76 to drop back to two over respectively and Justin Rose's 79 saw him tumble from three under to four over.
Harrington is fully aware of Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal's comments on Wednesday that the three-time major winner needed to do "extraordinary" things to come into the reckoning for his side.
The Dubliner would have to win this week to force his way in on points. Sergio Garcia is currently in the 10th and last automatic spot, but his 75 for seven over left him in danger of requiring a captain's pick as well.
As for the American side, this is their last week of qualifying and Mickelson - in the last qualifying position - did his chances no harm at all in front of captain Davis Love.
Earlier, Donaldson shot 73 - 20 strokes better than one of his playing partners, American club professional Doug Wade.
"Just a brutal test of golf," Donaldson said. "The whole thing is very difficult and frustrating at times.
"We have two more days to grind. I'll just try to take it one shot at a time."
Winner of the Irish Open last month on the links of Royal Portrush - his first European Tour victory in 255 starts - Donaldson was prospering at another seaside venue and in more tough weather.
Paul Lawrie, close to securing a Ryder Cup return after 13 years, shot 75 for four over, but Simon Dyson crashed to an 80 and bowed out on nine over.