By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- That second wake-up call came early for Rory McIlroy on Friday at the Wells Fargo Championship.
He had stepped to Quail Hollow's 10th tee at 7:30 a.m., ready for work at a time when many people are just getting out of bed. Three shots later, he was on the green, 16 feet away from a birdie and sole possession of the lead.
McIlroy took aim but the putt not only was off the mark, it slid 8 feet by the hole. The par putt stubbornly refused to fall, too.
"That was a nice little wake up call," McIlroy would later say with a wry grin. "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 couldn't take advantage on his next seven holes, though. He broke that string of pars with a bogey at the 18th to fall back to 3 under for the tournament. But he stayed patient and righted the ship on the front nine once he got more comfortable with the speed of the greens, making birdie putts of 4, 7 and 6 feet before signing for a 71.
"The greens were a lot faster today than they happened to be yesterday afternoon," McIlroy 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."
When the morning wave was finished, McIlroy was one shot off the lead held by Scott Gardiner. The 2010 winner of the Wells Fargo Championship, who lost a chance at a second title in a playoff last year, was tied with Lee Westwood, Rod Pampling and Jason Kokrak at 6 under.
For the second straight day, McIlroy hit 11 fairways and he managed one more green in regulation, 16, to be exact, in the second round so tee to green he's been extremely solid. He used 33 putts but capitalized when he could and even though he was 1 over on the par 5s, McIlroy couldn't be too disappointed.
"I think it shows how the rest of my game is that I'm still right there and still able to score," McIlroy said.