After 36 holes at Valhalla, Rory McIlroy is halfway to another major title but will need to fend off plenty of big names in order to claim it. Here’s how things stand at the halfway point of the PGA Championship, where McIlroy leads by a shot:
Leaderboard: Rory McIlroy (-9), Jason Day (-8), Jim Furyk (-8), Rickie Fowler (-7), Ryan Palmer (-7), Mikko Ilonen (-7), Phil Mickelson (-6)
What it means: McIlroy went out in the morning wave and set an early target. While several players were able to get close, none were able to equal him. He’s once again in front, just three weeks after going wire-to-wire at the Open Championship and five days after regaining the world No. 1 ranking with a win at Firestone.
Round of the day: Day had to withdraw last week in Akron because of vertigo, but he showed no signs of trouble Friday, carding a 6-under 65 in the second round. The Aussie had five birdies in addition to his eagle on the par-5 seventh and now will play the third round alongside the man who beat him out for the U.S. Open title at Congressional in 2011.
Best of the rest: Fowler continues to play well in the majors and is again in contention after a second-round 66 that included eight birdies. Fowler made only one par through his first 12 holes, but he did more good than bad across that stretch and, as a result, is in position for his fourth top-five finish at a major in 2014.
Biggest disappointment: Take your pick. Tiger Woods missed the cut at a major for just the fourth time in his professional career, Keegan Bradley missed a chance to pick up valuable Ryder Cup points after rounds of 74 and 72, and Jordan Spieth exited early after a 6-over 77 in the second round.
Main storyline heading into Saturday: All eyes will be on the “young gun” final pairing of McIlroy and Day, as the Ulsterman looks to play from the pole position for the second straight major. A number of stars are within striking distance, though, highlighted by Furyk, last year’s runner up at the PGA, and Mickelson, who eagled the final hole to vault into contention for his second PGA title.
Quote of the day: “Mentally, I’m in a really solid place in terms of not getting ahead of myself on the golf course.” – McIlroy