Rory McIlroy will have to do it the hard way after a late slip-up
Rory McIlroy stumbled at the finish to fall five shots behind a resurgent Jason Dufner in the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte.
The World No.4, who turns 30 today, was cruising to another sub-70 round, four-under for the day with two to play in his quest for a third win at Quail Hollow.
But he double-bogeyed the short par-four eighth and then bogeyed the ninth to end the day on six-under par, five strokes behind former US PGA winner Dufner, who scorched around the Charlotte venue in 63 to lead by a shot from Joel Dahmen and Max Homa on 11-under par.
It all added up to a one-under 70 for McIlroy, who took five to get down from just 55 yards at the 345-yard eighth after hooking his drive into a fairway bunker.
He then failed to get up and down after overshooting the green at the tough ninth and bar a three-putt bogey from 15ft at his fifth hole and those careless late mistakes, he was still well in the hunt after a five-birdie round as Seamus Power and Padraig Harrington battled in the afternoon wave.
On the European Tour, Paul Dunne's rollercoaster season continued when an "upset stomach" forced him to pull out of the Volvo China Open in Shenzen.
The Greystones star (26) was six-over par for the tournament after three holes of his second round when he pulled on a day when Chinese amateur Kuang Yang (14) became the second-youngest player to make the cut in a European Tour event.
"It's been a bit of a rollercoaster," Dunne said of his year so far. "It's up and down, and I haven't been able to put any consistency together. But it's not a million miles away - the odd day it feels like I've figured it out."
China's Wu Ashun added a 65 to his opening 66 to lead by two strokes on 13-under from Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen with last week's Trophee Hassan II winner Jorge Campillo a shot further back.
Yang shot 71 to become the second youngest player at 14 years, six months and 12 days to make the cut in a European Tour event since compatriot Guan Tianlang at the 2013 Masters.
It was a tough day for the Irish in the Challenge de Espana, where joint overnight leader Michael Hoey is tied for 36th on one-under, five shots off the lead after a 76.
Ruaidhri McGee shot 74 to make the weekend on the level-par cut mark- six adrift of leaders Sebastian Garcia, Martin Simonsen, Marcus Armitage and Rasmus Hojgaard - but late mistakes saw Cormac Sharvin (72) and Robin Dawson (70) miss out by one stroke on one-over.
On the Ladies European Tour, Leona Maguire moved up to third in the Rookie of the Year race when she finished tied for fifth in the Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic in Dubai.
Spain's Nuria Iturrios made it back-to-back wins when she closed with a 71 to pip Germany's Olivia Cowan by one stroke on 10-under par under lights.
Maguire was tied for the lead on eight-under after three birdies in her first six holes. She was just two off the lead playing the 18th but a bogey for a 70 left her three shots behind Iturrios.
As twin sister Lisa tied for 50th on 11-over after a 76, Leona picked up €8,529 and moved up to 23rd in the LET Order of Merit, boosting her chances of qualifying for the AIG Women's British Open in August.
In amateur golf, Massereene's Tiarnan McLarnon shot a level-par 70 to lead the Irish contingent in the Lytham Trophy at Royal Lytham and St Annes.