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Unhappy return for Rory as he fails to sparkle in Wells Fargo Championship

 

By Robert Jones

Rory McIlroy slumped to a bitterly disappointing second round of 76 in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow yesterday.

The scene of his famous first Major triumph when he lifted the US Open in emphatic fashion in 2011, McIlroy - celebrating his 29th birthday - failed to find that kind of form and slipped away from the leaders.

The World No.7, who says he is over the disappointment of missing out on Masters glory last month, had a bogey on holes one, five, 14, 16 and 17 while also carding a double bogey on the 11th.

McIlroy's score was his equal highest in the event he's won twice before and matched the 76 he shot on day two of the 2014 tournament en route to a share of eighth place.

The dismal effort left McIlroy just a shot inside the three-over cut line and trailing well behind little-known American Paul Malnati, who added a 68 to his first round 67 to lead at seven under.

Former World No. 1 Jason Day, and with a round capped by holing a bunker shot at the par-five 10th for eagle, posted a 65 to be tied in second place with American Aaron Wise (68) at six-under par. England's Paul Casey birdied his 14th and 15th holes in a round of 68 to be sharing fourth place at five-under par.

McIlroy had bogeyed his first and fifth holes before a first birdie in sending a booming 376-yard drive down the ninth and then brilliantly landing his second to just four feet.

But exacerbating McIlroy's birthday blues was clipping a tree with his drive at the par-four 11th and with his ball landing in a fairway bunker from where he missed the green.

McIlroy shares two-over with Tiger Woods, who made it six of seven halfway cuts this season despite adding a two-over par 73 to his opening 71.

Woods' only birdie was at his last hole.

Meanwhile, Justin Thomas looked nothing like a player worthy of second place in the world rankings as he shot a two-over 73 and missed a host of putts in the first round.

Hoping to avoid a similar round yesterday, Thomas turned to his playing partner and close friend Rickie Fowler for assistance. "I putted so terribly so much that I changed putters. In fact, I used one of Rickie's putters today," Thomas said.

The result? Thomas shot a two-under 69 to move to even for the tournament.

"JT asked me after his round on Thursday if I had any of my backups with me," Fowler said.

"I typically carry for sure one, if not two. One is an identical replica of what I use, and one that's slightly more rounded. That's was the one he grabbed.

"I told him after he hit his first tee shot, 'Well, you're kind of stuck now.' It was good to see him roll it better. I thought he made some good strokes out there. We always try to help each other out."

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