Plenty of chasers after Rory’s 36-hole lead at Valhalla

Weekend Preview – PGA of America – 96th PGA Championship –Valhalla Golf Club – Louisville, Kentucky –

Just 36 holes from his second Wanamaker Trophy and second straight major championship, top-ranked Rory McIlroy (9-under) leads a strong leader board at Valhalla Golf Club.

McIlroy, who eyes his fourth major title in three years, made eagle-3 at the par-5 18th hole – his 9th of the day in round two to secure the lead. He battled the rest of the day and wound up the 36-hole leader for the 96th PGA Championship.

Wet conditions set the tone in round two and might for the rest of the weekend in Louisville, Kentucky. He shot 67 with a pair of bogeys on his card.

Jim Furyk, 44, is tied for second place with WGC-Match Play champion Jason Day at a 9-under tally. Day, who is 9th in the Official World Golf Ranking, plays with Rory in round three in the final pairing. Day’s 65 Friday was one of the best in round two.

At 80-to-1 odds to win the championship at, Day was a bargain at the betting booth since he has yet to show his early-season form since a thumb injury after his victory in February.

Americans Rickie Fowler and Ryan Palmer sit T-4 just two back. Fowler managed eight birdies scattering three bogeys en route to a 66. He has Top 5 finishes in all three majors this year. European Tour veteran Mikko Ilonen is also at 7-under. He won the Irish Open in June.

For Palmer, the first-round co-leader shot 70 in the spotlight Friday. The three-time PGA Tour champion has a pair of runner-up finishes in 2014.

Phil Mickelson (6-under) rallied his way back into the championship Friday with a 67 including an eagle his final hole. The 2005 PGA champion could be the greatest challenge to Rory if he posts a solid round on Saturday’s Moving Day.

Mickelson has a pair of Top 10s at the previous two majors at Valhalla.

All eyes will be on Rory to see if he can keep his momentum going. He loves this tournament with four Top 10s in five tries at the PGA including a victory in 2012.

But, he has plenty of firepower right behind him including world No. 3 Henrik Stenson, who is part of a group at T-9 at 5-under and just four back. First-round co-leader Lee Westwood and Steve Stricker are also in that group.

Stricker was 4-under through eight holes Friday and tied for the lead at one point. His 68 puts him in the weekend mix.

Other Golf News:

  • Tiger Woods (74-74) missed the cut for just the fourth time in his major championship career. He missed five putts inside 10 feet in round two. He said his back was sore and did not know when he would play again. Woods has zero Top 10s on the PGA Tour in 2014 and will not qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
  • Inbee Park, who has just one victory in 2014, leads the Meijer LPGA Classic in Michigan at the half-way point. Park (10-under) shot 66 Friday with three straight birdies to start her round. She also has nine Top 10s this season. Suzann Pettersen is a shot behind after a 64. Lydia Ko and first-round leader Sandra Gal are T-5.
  • Several high-profile players missed the cut besides Woods. Major champions Webb Simpson, Martin Kaymer and Keegan Bradley also missed out on the weekend. Darren Clarke (79-69) managed a 10-shot swing but just missed a Saturday tee time.
  • Stricker, 47, was announced as a vice-captain for the U.S. Team at the Ryder Cup in September. But the veteran, who is 23rd in the world rankings, could earn a spot on the team in the standings with a victory this weekend.