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In-form McIlroy stays clear at Valhalla

Updated: Saturday, 09 Aug 2014 10:28 | Comments

Rory McIlroy battled the inclement conditions with the early starters
Rory McIlroy battled the inclement conditions with the early starters

Rory McIlroy soared into a two-shot lead in the weather-delayed second round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club.

The Open champion, in pursuit of a third consecutive victory on the PGA Tour, fired a four-under-par 67 on a wet, ultra-long Valhalla layout where play was suspended for 45 minutes earlier in the day due to water-logged conditions.

McIlroy, the pre-tournament favourite heading into the year's final major, holed an uphill 30-foot putt from just off the green to eagle the par-five 18th and also recorded four birdies and two bogeys to post a nine-under total of 133.

He squandered a golden opportunity to add another eagle at the par-five seventh, where he hit a stunning second shot from 243 yards to just eight feet before missing the putt, but signed off with a birdie at the ninth where he drained a 16-footer.

"I played well for the most part," McIlroy told reporters after moving a step closer to winning the fourth major title of his career. "Scored really well. Some key up-and-downs to keep the momentum going in the round.

"I'm very pleased. I'm in a great position going into the weekend in another major championship. Can't ask for much more. I'm confident, and I'm just on a good run.

"You've seen before when I got on good runs like this, I can sort of keep it going for a little while," said the  Holywood man, who won last month's Open before clinching the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday in his next start.

Fourth-ranked Swede Henrik Stenson (71), veteran American Steve Stricker (68) and Canada's Graham DeLaet (68) were knotted at five under, three strokes off the pace.

McIlroy, however, commanded the spotlight as he lived up to his pre-tournament billing with another consummate display in often difficult playing conditions.

Initially struggling for accuracy off the tee, he dropped a shot at the par-four 12th where he found a bunker with his approach, but swiftly responded by sinking a 12-footer at the 13th and a 16-footer at the 15th to get to six under.

While McIlroy squandered another birdie chance at the 16th, where he missed an eight-foot putt, he reached the turn in sizzling style with his eagle on 18.

McIlroy dropped another shot at the par-four second, where his tee shot ended up in the rough and his second in a bunker, but maintained his grip on the tournament with two birdies in his last three holes.

Veteran Stricker, who has played a limited schedule on the PGA Tour for the past two years, surged into contention with four birdies on his front nine, capped by a 30-foot putt at the 17th.

Out in four-under 32, Stricker made his only bogey of the day where he found two bunkers en route to the green before finishing his round four strokes off the lead.

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