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Schauffele takes four-stroke lead at PGA’s storm-hit Wells Fargo
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Schauffele takes four-stroke lead at PGA’s storm-hit Wells Fargo

Fourth-ranked Xander Schauffele shot a four-under-par 67 to take a four-stroke lead after the second round of the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship on Friday.

Reigning Olympic champion Schauffele, last year’s Wells Fargo runner-up, closed with a bogey to finish at 11-under 131 after 36 holes at rain-soaked Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“I just try to plod around the property knowing that if you hit a driveway anywhere near the fairway, it’s going to jam and get stuck in it,” Schauffele said.

“I’ve really been keeping every hole in mind and it’s only Friday. I’m just happy to be in this position.”

World number two Rory McIlroy and Australia’s Jason Day shared second place at 135, with South Korean Im Sung-jae and American Taylor Moore at 136.

Two-time major winner Collin Morikawa closed with a bogey and was sixth on 137.

The PGA Tour’s signature event, with a smaller field and no cut, is the final major match before next week’s PGA Championship in Valhalla, where Schauffele hopes to win his first major title.

Schauffele is aiming for his eighth career PGA Tour victory this week. The 30-year-old American has not won since the 2022 Scottish Open.

“I’ve knocked on the door here a few times and I keep telling myself to keep knocking,” Schauffele said.

“You always start thinking about (winning). The hard part is just staying present, recognizing the situation you’re in, realizing you’re playing good golf and sometimes going your own way.”

Schauffele sank birdie putts from just outside eight feet on the fifth and eighth holes around a tap-in birdie on the par-5 seventh after reaching the green in two.

At 10, Schauffele dropped his approach inches from the hole and tapped in for birdie. He sank a birdie putt from just inside five feet at the par-3 13th to reach 12 under with a six-stroke lead.

But at 18, he hit his approach over the green, then chipped to 15 feet and lipped out on his par putt.

McIlroy fired a bogey-free 68, while Day made five birdies in a six-hole stretch en route to a 67.

“Anytime you can explore this golf course without a bogey, it’s always going to be a decent day,” McIlroy said. “I’m preparing myself to get back to work on it this weekend.”

McIlroy, a back-nine starter, sank a five-foot birdie putt at the 10th and threw rough from the greenside to within inches of the hole to post another birdie at the par-5 15th.

On the eighth, McIlroy’s approach landed two inches from the hole, setting up a tap-in birdie.

“It was solid,” McIlroy said. “I probably could have squeezed out a few more shots, but overall I’m very happy with my game. The last two days I really felt in control.”

– The day creeps back –
Four-time major winner McIlroy is a three-time champion at Quail Hollow, with wins in 2010, 2015 and 2021.

“If I drive the ball well, I can benefit from it more on this course than on any other golf course,” McIlroy said.

“I can carry a couple of doglegs, and a couple of fairway bunkers. That gives me a huge advantage on some of these par-4s,” said the 35-year-old Northern Irish star.

Day birdied all three par-5s offered, including two in his birdie run from the seventh through 12th holes.

Day hasn’t had a top-10 finish since February.

“It’s been a bit of a struggle, but I’m slowly starting to get out of it, which is nice,” Day said. “The last two days have been good to see.”

Agence France-Presse