last gasp | 

Rory McIlroy digs deep to keep 11-year streak alive at Quail Hollow

Final hole drama as struggly Rory makes the cut

Rory McIlroy reacts after missing a putt on the ninth hole during the second round of the Wells Fargo Championshipat the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina© AP

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy had to dig deep and made a nerve-racking five-foot putt at the last to make the weekend on the mark in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.

A three-time winner of the event, the world number three made an early birdie at the third to get to four-under but then dropped three shots in a row from the fifth and another at the 10th to slip outside the cut line.

Struggling from the tee, he eventually drove the 325-yard 14th with a three-wood and two-putted for birdie before chiselling out four hard-fought pars for a 73 that allowed him to avoid missing back-to-back cuts on the PGA Tour for the first time since 2012.

He was tied for 55th on one-under par but just seven shots behind Tyrrell Hatton (65), Nate Lashley (66) and Wyndham Clark (67), who lead by one stroke on eight-under-par from Xander Schauffele, JJ Spaun, Justin Thomas, Adam Scott, Sunjae Im and Adam Svensson.

McIlroy is no stranger to coming back from the cut line to win at Quail Hollow, having pulled it off in 2010, when he shot rounds of 72 and 73 to make the weekend on the number, then followed a 66 with a ten-under 62 to win his maiden PGA Tour title by four shots from Phil Mickelson.

Quail Hollow was a par-72 back then, but McIlroy will have to rediscover his driving mojo after finding just four fairways in round two.

After following that early birdie at the third with bogeys at the fifth and sixth, he drove out of bounds for the second day running at the seventh for his third bogey in a row.

He then pulled his tee shot at the par-five 10th and made six before somehow playing his last eight holes in one-under.

He came close to disaster at the 18th when his drive stopped on the bank of the steam that runs the length of the hole but managed to find the front edge of the green despite an awkward stance and successfully two-putt from 70 feet.

Rory McIlroy in Profile

Seamus Power now leads the Irish challenge, tied for 29th on three-under after a hard-fought 70 in which he scrambled for par six times out of seven as he followed a bogey at the eighth with birdies at the ninth and 11th.

The West Waterford man, who has missed two cuts and not finished better than 31st in his last five events, needs a good week to regain some of the tremendous Ryder Cup and FedEx Cup momentum he had built up over the autumn and winter.

As for Shane Lowry, the Clara man holed little and shot a brace of one-over 72s to miss the cut by three strokes on two-over.

He's ranked 96th in the FedEx Cup standings and projected to fall outside the top 100, with only the top 70 making the Playoffs this year.

He was far from his ball-striking best and as a result made nothing longer than a nine-footer yesterday and clearly needs some inspiration now as he is not due to play until the PGA Championship at Oak Hill the week after next.

It was the opposite for his Ryder Cup teammate Hatton, who made three huge putts in his last four holes and finished birdie, eagle, par, birdie for a six-under 65 and a share of the lead.

"They're not the type of putts that you hole consistently, so to finish the round that way, I'm obviously very pleased with that," said Hatton, who made a 33-footer at the sixth, a 26-footer for eagle at the seventh and a 31 footer at the ninth. "It was nice to see some putts go in.”

Perhaps Lowry needs to try AimPoint, which appears to have worked wonders for Thomas, who was fifth in the world after lifting the Wanamaker Trophy for the second time in Tulsa last year but is now 15th.

“I feel like I’ve been putting significantly better than the putting results have shown and I’ve noticed these last two days it just takes a lot of the guessing out and simplifies it,” said the Kentucky native, who ranks 152nd on the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting,

McIlroy, meanwhile, knows he is just one low round away from moving well up the leaderboard.

The bad news is there are so many good players ahead of him.

Tommy Fleetwood's 71 left him tied 10th on six-under while defending champion Max Homa is only three shots off the lead after he made four birdies in a row from the 13th and shot 67 to share 13th.

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