Rory McIlroy has the leaders at the Wells Fargo Championship right where he wants them ahead of him.
McIlroy stormed back from a nine-stroke deficit at the halfway point at Quail Hollow two years ago to beat Phil Mickelson by two shots and claim his first PGA Tour victory. Given that comeback, McIlroy figures hes not in bad position as he heads into the final two rounds this weekend.
I think I was (nine) back going into the weekend here last time. So being only six back should be easy, McIlroy joked after his 4-under-par 68 on Friday.
No, the guys at the top of the leader board obviously are playing well. Ill need to go out and get off to a good start (Saturday) and post a good one to give myself a chance going into Sunday.
McIlroy, who is at 6 under for the tournament, has 12 players in front of him, including second-day leader Nick Watney at 12 under.
But McIlroy, whose final-round 62 in 2010 is the course record, is confident he can go low in the hot, but otherwise ideal weather conditions. He has played the four par-5 holes at 6 under.
McIlroy, the U.S. Open champion, turned 23 Friday. He had low-key birthday plans.
I dont have much going on, he said. Probably just go out for a nice dinner and take it easy and get ready for (Saturday).
If McIlroy can match his comeback from two years ago, the real celebration will be Sunday.
KIM WITHDRAWS: Anthony Kim, whose victory at Charlotte in 2008 was his first on Tour, withdrew from the tournament before Fridays round because of injuries that have plagued him the past two years. Kim has dropped out of his past three tournaments. He status for next weeks Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., is uncertain.
Kim, who shot a 2-over-par 74 on Thursday, had surgery two years ago on his left thumb. He aggravated the injury two weeks ago at the Valero Texas Open when he hit a rock on a 5-iron shot.
He also has dealt with pain in his right wrist and elbow, and is in danger of losing his card if he fails to finish among the top 125 money winners.
Bo Van Pelt also withdrew with a wrist injury.
VIEW FROM BEHIND: McIlroy played in the group behind Tiger Woods, who missed the cut after shooting a 1-over 73 on Friday.
Obviously playing behind him, he didnt look like he was playing that well. It looked like he was missing fairways and missing greens, McIlroy said. Its tough to scramble your way around this golf course all the time. Its going to sort of take its toll on you.
Since winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, Woods has failed to break par in his last six tournament rounds at Augusta and Charlotte.
FEELING GOOD: Quail Hollow member Johnson Wagner shot a 66 Friday afternoon, the lowest score among the late starters, putting him into a tie for 10th, five behind leader Nick Watney.
Rather than let the swirl of activity surrounding a hometown tournament bother him, Wagner adopted a different approach to securing tickets and saying hello to everyone this week.
I told my coach I was apprehensive about it and he told me to embrace it, use it as a positive," Wagner said.
After playing just two competitive rounds since the Masters, Wagner said he feels refreshed as he begins a stretch of five straight events.
• The players who caught the early/late side of the pairings draw the ones who played Friday afternoon got the most challenging conditions by far. Phil Mickelson, who made the cut on the number at 1 under, reached back to the 1995 U.S. Open at Shinnecock (N.Y.) to find a time when the conditions changed as much as they did. The greens got firm and fast with the wind making club selection a guessing game at times.
• Imagine the chatter about Tiger Woods lost ball with no penalty ruling had he made the cut by one stroke. It looked for a time Friday as if the cutline would come back to him, which would have meant flying back to Charlotte after leaving town.
• Nice comeback by Charlotte resident Brendon de Jonge, who after shooting 67 Thursday, was outside the cut line on the back nine Friday. He birdied three of his last five holes and is tied for 27th.