After back-to-back double bogeys, McIlroy found himself 5 over after four holes and outside the projected cut line.
He three putted the second hole for a bogey, then hit his tee shot at No. 3 under a tree, where he had to take a penalty for an unplayable lie, leading to his first double bogey. He took another unplayable lie after his approach to the fourth green sailed left into trouble.
McIlroy played the final 14 holes in 1 under, shooting 76 to make the cut on the number (145). He has been in this position before at Quail Hollow Golf Club. He made the cut on the number in 2010 when he won here, shooting 62 in the final round to claim his first PGA Tour title.
Friday's sluggish start forced McIlroy to regroup.
“I felt like I gathered myself OK after that,” McIlroy said. “But I need to do a little bit of work, go to the putting green and do a little bit of work tonight, and come out tomorrow morning and shoot a low score.”
And low scores are out there. Brendon de Jonge equaled McIlroy's course record with a 62 Friday.
“I just need to be a little more clinical with my iron play and get closer to the pin, and then I need to be able to finish them off a little better,” McIlroy said.
He has struggled with the putter this year. McIlroy felt like he had some issues worked out coming into Charlotte this week, but he said the stroke needs more refining. He said he was particularly troubled by left-to-right putts in the second round.
“I'm feeling uncomfortable on my putts, so I am going to go to the putting green and hit a lot of left-to-right putts, and feel more comfortable over them,” McIlroy said. “I feel like every time, when I feel like I'm aiming correctly, I'm aiming too low, and not trusting it, and not hitting a good putt.”