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Rory McIlroy fights back at Quail Hollow but then stumbles at the finish

By Phil Casey

Rory McIlroy played himself back into contention at the Wells Fargo Championship after a solid second round yesterday.

Eight shots off the pace after his opening round at Quail Hollow, the Holywood ace had to find form yesterday and he managed to close in on the leaders.

The defending champion will, however, be bitterly disappointed with his finish, dropping two shots in the last two holes.

McIlroy's three under round left him two under for the tournament. The four-time major winner lies six shots behind American Andrew Loupe on eight under par.

Americans dominate the top of the leaderboard but Justin Rose is also in a good position to strike on four under.

After opening with four pars on the spin the drama in McIlroy's round really started.

A birdie on the fifth lifted his spirits but he handed the shot back on the next hole.

But then an eagle on the seventh hole and two consecutive birdies saw a smile return to his face. A birdie on the 10th moved McIlroy to five under par but he lost another shot on the 12th.

Another birdie on the 14th got him back in the groove but the two bogeys at the finish left a sourt taste. "It's a step in the right direction," said McIlroy. "I can still win this with a big finish." Meanwhile, McIlroy has revealed the details of a bizarre incident which led to a spectator being ejected from the championship during Thursday's first round. McIlroy had just teed off on the par-three sixth hole, his 15th, when a golf ball was thrown onto the tee box - with an earplug stuck to it.

The 27-year-old said: "It was sort of weird. That's never really happened to me before."

McIlroy's playing partner Rickie Fowler was preparing to hit his tee shot when the ball landed, but laughed off the incident after carding a one-under-par 71. "So random," Fowler said. "The guy tried to say it was a gift. I don't know why you would give a gift of a golf ball with an earplug attached to it." McIlroy pointed out the spectator to security officials and he was removed from the course.

• Italy's Francesco Laporta claimed the halfway lead in the Hassan Trophy in Morocco.

Laporta added a second round of 70 to an opening 68 at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam to finish six under par, a shot ahead of Spain's Borja Virto Astudillo, Australia's Jason Scrivener and Korea's Wang Jeunghun.

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