Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 31 January 2015

Rory McIlroy storms into lead at US PGA in Valhalla

Can Rory win yet another major this year?
Can Rory win yet another major this year?
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: (L-R) Tiger Woods of the United States and Phil Mickelson of the United States shake hands on the 18th green during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Phil Mickelson of the United States tips his cap on the 18th green during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: (L-R) Jim Furyk of the United States and Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain shake hands on the 18th green during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Tiger Woods of the United States hits his tee shot on the 15th hole during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Padraig Harrington of Ireland waits under an umbrella alongside caddie Ronan Flood before hitting his tee shot on the 11th hole during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Tiger Woods of the United States hits an approach shot from the rough on the sixth hole during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
Rory McIlroy watches his tee shot on the 12th hole during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Valhalla
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits his tee shot on the 15th hole during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland lines up his putt on the 13th green during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland celebrates a putt for birdie on the 14th hole during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland celebrates a putt for birdie on the 14th hole during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland waves on the 18th green during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland waves on the 18th green during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches his tee shot on the 11th hole during the weather-delayed second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks with his caddie J.P. Fitzgerald on the 12th hole during the weather-delayed second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hts a shot from the rough on the 12th hole during the weather-delayed second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland stands under an umbrella on the 15th green during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, Martin Kaymer of Germany and Bubba Watson of the United States walk onto the 14th green during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, Martin Kaymer of Germany and Bubba Watson of the United States walk onto the 14th green during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks off the 15th tee under an umbrella during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland celebrates an eagle putt on the 18th green during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland celebrates an eagle putt on the 18th green during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland celebrates an eagle putt on the 18th green during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland celebrates an eagle putt on the 18th green during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, hits out of the bunker on the 12th hole during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Valhalla Golf Club on Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, watches his tee shot on the 10th hole during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Valhalla Golf Club on Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Matteo Manassero of Italy waits with his caddie Alberto Binaghi on the tenth hole during the weather-delayed second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Scott Stallings of the United States and his caddie Jon Yarborough walk across the tenth fairway during the weather-delayed second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Standing water is seen on the ninth green during the weather-delayed second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Tom Watson of the United States and his caddie Neil Oxman walk to the practice ground during the weather-delayed second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: David Hearn's caddie Brent Everson waits under an umbrella on the first tee during the weather-delayed second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Bob Sowards of the United States rides in a cart with his caddie near the clubhouse during the weather-delayed second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: A volunteer waits near the practice ground during the weather-delayed second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Members of the grounds crew clear water from a fairway during the weather-delayed second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Henrik Stenson of Sweden hits his tee shot on the 17th hole during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Chris Kirk of the United States hits his third shot from a bunker on the ninth hole during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Jerry Kelly of the United States reacts on the ninth green during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Hideto Tanihara of Japan hits his second shot on the ninth hole during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Chris Wood of England hits a tee shot on the 12th hole during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts to a missed putt for birdie on the 16th hole during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Steve Schneiter of the United States hits a tee shot on the 12th hole during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland celebrates a putt for birdie on the 14th hole during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images) ***BESTPIX***
Phil Mickelson hits out of the bunker on the 17th hole during the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Valhalla Golf Club on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/John Locher)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Ian Poulter of England walks across the 18th green during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Mikko Ilonen of Finland hits his tee shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Jerry Smith of the United States hits his tee shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Ian Poulter of England hits his second shot on the first hole during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Brian Harman of the United States hits his tee shot on the fourth hole during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Tiger Woods of the United States cross the bridge to the second tee during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Rickie Fowler of the United States hits his tee shot on the tenth hole during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 07: Hideki Matsuyama of Japan walks up the tenth fairway with his caddie Daisuke Shindo during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 7, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 06: (L-R) Tiger Woods of the United States and sports agent Mark Steinberg walk across a bridge during a practice round prior to the start of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 6, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 05: Jamie Donaldson of Wales waits with his caddie on a green during a practice round prior to the start of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 5, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 05: Lee Westwood of England crosses a bridge during a practice round prior to the start of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 5, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 05: Pablo Larrazabal of Spain lines up a shot with his caddie during a practice round prior to the start of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 5, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 05: (L-R) Gerry McIlory, father of Rory McIlroy (not pictured) talks Gala Alten, girlfriend of Pablo Larrazabal (not pictured) during a practice round prior to the start of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 5, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 05: (L-R) Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Pablo Larrazabal of Spain walk on a tee during a practice round prior to the start of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 5, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, left, and Sergio Garcia, of Spain, walk along the foot bridge on the fourth hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament at Valhalla Golf Club on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. The tournament is set to begin on Thursday. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Adam Scott, of Australia, speaks to the media during a news conference for the PGA Championship golf tournament at Valhalla Golf Club on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. The tournament is set to begin on Thursday. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Justin Rose, of England, right, gets a putting lesson on the 17th hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament at Valhalla Golf Club on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. The tournament is set to begin on Thursday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, hits out of the bunker on the second hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament at Valhalla Golf Club on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. The tournament is set to begin on Thursday. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, speaks to the media during a news conference before a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament at Valhalla Golf Club on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. The tournament is set to begin on Thursday. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Holywood man Rory McIlroy recovered from a slow start to boost his chances of a second major title in succession in the weather-affected 96th US PGA Championship on Friday.

US PGA Live: Leaderboard

McIlroy briefly dropped three shots off the lead when he bogeyed the par-four 12th, his third hole of the day, but bounced back with a birdie on the next and made another from 18 feet on the 15th as more rain fell at Valhalla.

And when the 25-year-old Open champion holed from 30 feet for an eagle on the par-five 18th, he suddenly held a two-shot lead over US Ryder Cup vice-captain Steve Stricker and fellow American Ryan Palmer.

After 11 holes McIlroy was sitting on seven shots under par - one shot out in front.

England's Lee Westwood and American Kevin Chappell were also six under and among the later starters yet to begin their rounds.

McIlroy had not looked in top form in the early stages of his round, pushing his opening drive into the crowd on the par-five 10th and failing to convert a birdie putt from 10 feet, although a par was at least two shots better than he managed there on Thursday after hooking his second shot out of bounds.

Another birdie chance went begging on the 11th and the world number one then bogeyed the 12th, pulling his drive into the gallery and failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker.

McIlroy, who followed his Open victory with a first World Golf Championship title in the Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday, got back on track with birdies at the 13th and 15th and missed from six feet for another on the 16th after a towering four-iron approach from 224 yards.

But he made amends from much longer range on the 18th to reach the turn in 33 and pile the pressure on the chasing pack.

Play had got under way in torrential rain at 7:30am but was suspended just 20 minutes later with the first group of joint overnight leader Palmer, Ireland's Shane Lowry and Bob Sowards still on the first green.

Two members of the greenkeeping staff at Valhalla had been attempting to clear water from the putting surface with squeegees, but that proved an impossible task as the rain intensified.

The rain eased enough for tournament officials to announce play would restart after a delay of 45 minutes, although preferred lies could not be used as they were surprisingly not in force when the round got under way.

The delay meant McIlroy's tee time was pushed back until 9:25am and by then the rain had stopped, leaving the course vulnerable to the kind of "target golf" the Northern Irishman prefers.

The conditions did not seem to favour the semi-retired Stricker, but the 47-year-old - named on Wednesday as Tom Watson's final vice-captain for the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles - had covered the back nine in 32 to improve to six under.

Further reading

Rain suspends play at Valhalla

US PGA Live: Leaderboard, course guide, news and pictures from Valhalla 

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