Louis Oosthuizen opened up a one-shot lead in a gripping final round at the U.S. Open.

Oosthuizen was in a three-way share of the lead heading into Sunday at Torrey Pines but was initially circumspect, going one over through eight.

That put the 2010 Open winner a shot behind defending champion Bryson DeChambeau, who came agonisingly close to a sensational hole-in-one at the par-three eighth.

That birdie result was enough for the outright lead on five under at the turn, although the American's first bogey of the weekend on 11 came as Oosthuizen's putter heated up, picking up shots on nine and 10. Oosthuizen dropped one at 11 though.

DeChambeau erred again, meaning Jon Rahm – who flew out of the blocks with back-to-back birdies – was the nearest challenger to Oosthuizen alongside another overnight leader Mackenzie Hughes on four under.

Rory McIlroy drained a 35-footer on the fourth, leaving him well-placed early on minus four.

However, the Northern Irishman passed up three further birdie opportunities by the midway point of his round and his hopes were fading when he bogeyed the 11th.

That left McIlroy level on three under with Brooks Koepka, although the American four-time major winner was through 16 holes and appeared to have missed his moment to make a decisive move.

The 2020 US PGA champion Collin Morikawa was one of the pack on four under until he went through the green on 13 and left with a double bogey.

Louis Henley was alongside Oosthuizen and Hughes in the clubhouse on Saturday but also dropped back to minus two, albeit in less spectacular fashion than Morikawa.

Bryson DeChambeau is fully embracing the atmosphere created by the so-called 'Brooksy bros' at the U.S. Open.

There is little love lost between defending champion DeChambeau and two-time winner Brooks Koepka, with their simmering rivalry one of the more intriguing sub-plots in golf during 2021.

At last month's US PGA Championship, a video of Koepka visibly frustrated at an interruption from DeChambeau went viral, which led to the pair trading back-and-forth jibes on social media.

Prior to the tournament, DeChambeau admitted the two just "don't like each other". On Sunday, as he contemplated going for the par-five 18th in two while in a sand trap, fans of Koepka yelled "go get 'em Brooksy" and "Brooks would go for it".

DeChambeau resisted the temptation to bite but when questioned about it after his round, the world number five insists he is relishing the rivalry.

"Hey, I love it. I think it's so much fun," said DeChambeau, who recorded his first ever bogey-free round in major golf to sit two back of leaders Mackenzie Hughes, Louis Oosthuizen and Russell Henley at three under at Torrey Pines.

"People think that it annoys me. If anything, it just creates a great atmosphere for golf. At first, I didn't really know how to handle it. You're kind of thrown into a situation. 

"But now I enjoy it. I think it's great. You've got to embrace it. There's going to be team Bryson, team Brooks out there, and hey, keep it up, I'm happy about it. 

"I'm excited that one day we can eventually get paired up and play together. It would be fun."

DeChambeau, who scored a three-under 68 in round three, is using driver at almost every opportunity in tactics similar to those he employed when winning at Winged Foot last year.

He says he has learned the nuances of coping with major golf.

"You've got to be really patient out here at these majors. It's something that is not easy to do," he added.

"My first few goes at majors, I was not successful or anywhere near successful, and I feel like I'm starting to understand major championship golf and how to play it and how to go about managing my game, my attitude and just my patience level. 

"If I can continue to do that [on Sunday], I think I'll have a good chance."

Jon Rahm is three off the lead after signing for a one-over 72 on Saturday. The Spaniard thinks being part of the chasing pack may actually play to his strengths.

"I feel like it's easy when you're in the lead to get a little tentative and start trying to be a little bit more safe in certain parts," he said. 

"I feel like when you're a couple shots back, you have nothing to lose early on. So, I feel like you can be a little bit more aggressive and try to get some birdies.

"There will be somebody who gets a fast start, and hopefully that's me tomorrow, and I get a fast start, and I get it going fast."

Since winning The Open in 2010, Oosthuizen has been a perennial nearly man in the majors, recording five runners-up finishes including play-off defeats at the 2012 Masters and 2015 Open, while he was tied second to Phil Mickelson at the PGA Championship last month.

The South African is aiming to take the positives from those experiences, though, saying: "The two that really hurt was the playoffs. That's so close to winning.

"You know, the other ones, just good weeks and good results. Could have been better but taking more positive out of it than anything else."

Oosthuizen drained an eagle at the par-five 18th, which drew a huge reaction from the galleries.

"A year ago, that would have been a very boring eagle with a few people going nuts. But that was nice to see everyone back," he said, alluding to the return of fans who were unable to attend in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Louis Oosthuizen and Mackenzie Hughes used eagles on the back nine to surge into a share of the lead heading into the final round of the U.S. Open. 

They join Russell Henley atop a crowded leaderboard at Torrey Pines after the second-round co-leader saved par on 18 to complete an up-and-down round and sit at five under par for the tournament. 

Oosthuizen finished with a flourish, draining a downhill putt for eagle on 18 to cap his one-under 70 as he continues the quest for his second major title 11 years after winning the Open Championship. 

The unheralded Hughes, meanwhile, eagled the 13th and birdied the last for a 68 on the day. He is the first Canadian to hold at least a share of the lead after 54 holes of a major since Mike Weir at the 1999 US PGA Championship. 

The 30-year-old missed the cut in his last five PGA Tour starts and has only one career victory, in the 2016 RSM Classic at Sea Island. 

Impressive as Hughes was, the round of the day belonged to Rory McIlroy (67), who also birdied the 18th to reach three under for the tournament exactly 11 years after he closed out his runaway U.S. Open win at Congressional. 

Bryson DeChambeau (68) also lurks two back of the leaders after a bogey-free third round. 

Jon Rahm (72) is among the group at two under as he seeks his first major title, along with 2020 U.S. Open runner-up Matthew Wolff (73) and Scottie Scheffler (70).

The 2016 U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson (68) is four back of the lead at one under along with 2020 US PGA champion Collin Morikawa (70), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (70), Xander Schauffele (72) and Kevin Streelman (72). 

Among other notables, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas are at even par after shooting 71 Saturday, while Jordan Spieth (68), Martin Kaymer (69), Lee Westwood (71) sit one over. 

Richard Bland, who shared the lead with Henley after the second round, plummeted down the leaderboard to one over with a brutal round of 77 punctuated by the 48-year-old putting his approach shot in the water on 18. 

 

The pursuit of major glory at the U.S. Open got underway after a fog-enforced delay on Thursday, with favourite Jon Rahm among a host of contenders primed for action at Torrey Pines.

As two groups went out after the fog had cleared at around 08:15 local time at the first and 10th holes, around an half and half later than planned, the big names were waiting in the wings, with Rahm hotly tipped for success.

Rahm, who suffered a coronavirus-enforced withdrawal when he led after three rounds at the Memorial Tournament this month, is scheduled to head out at 15:36.

The Spaniard has never won a major and has a best finish at the U.S. Open of third in 2019.

Reigning champion Bryson DeChambeau will begin his title defence at 15:14 in a group with Masters holder Hideki Matsuyama and Tyler Strafaci.

DeChambeau's rival Brooks Koepka, who won back-to-back U.S. Opens in 2017 and 2018, can attempt to apply some pressure when he goes out at 09:29 with Justin Thomas and last year's US PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa.

The man who took that honour from Morikawa, Phil Mickelson, can complete the Grand Slam this week, and Lefty will tee off his bid to join that elite club at 09:51. He has been runner-up six times in this event.

Rory McIlroy, a winner in 2011, will seek to add a fifth major when he gets his tournament up and running at 15:36 alongside 2013 champion Justin Rose and world number one Dustin Johnson.

The 121st edition of the U.S. Open takes place at Torrey Pines, a course that previously staged the major in 2008.

Tiger Woods famously triumphed in a dramatic play-off against Rocco Mediate 13 years ago, battling through the pain of a knee injury to secure the trophy for a third time. It was his 14th major triumph, but few would have predicted he would have to wait a further 11 years to add to his collection.

Woods will not be part of the field this week, but reigning champion Bryson DeChambeau will hope to match the feat of Brooks Koepka – winner in 2017 and 2018 – by defending his title.

Besides those two rivals, who else could be in contention for success in California? Time to get out the crystal ball…


LOVE HIM OR HATE HIM, REED CAN TOP THE BILLING AGAIN – Peter Hanson

A divisive figure he may be (even among his own Ryder Cup team-mates), but there is no doubting Patrick Reed's skills on the course. Moreover, he was a winner at Torrey Pines only five months ago at the Farmers Insurance Open – doing so by a convincing five-shot margin.

Four top-10 finishes have followed since, including at the Masters and his most recent tournament the Memorial. At that latter event, he led the field in scrambling and par-three scoring and Reed is tied-sixth for top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this season. His scoring average of 70.039 is tied 11th and it would be no surprise to see him in contention for a second major this weekend.

XANDER TO 'SCHAUFFELE' OFF WITH TROPHY – Rob Lancaster

Californian Xander Schauffele should feel right at home at Torrey Pines, a venue where he has not always excelled but did finish in a tie for second at this year’s Farmers Insurance Open back in January. He has not won on the PGA Tour since January 2019, though only a play-off defeat denied him retaining the Sentry Tournament of Champions title the following year.

Crucially, the 27-year-old has a track record of doing well in this major. Since 2017, he has not finished outside the top six, including ending up in a four-way tie for third place at Pebble Beach in 2019 when Gary Woodland triumphed. Indeed, an American has been crowned champion in the past six editions – this year could see Schauffele hit another home run.

RAHM THE MAN FOR THIS MAJOR – Benjamin Spratt

Jon Rahm is a man in form heading into this event. Perhaps. It is slightly difficult to gauge exactly how the Spaniard is shaping up, having just recovered from COVID-19, but he was flying the last time we saw him on a golf course. Rahm led by six shots at the Memorial Tournament when he was remarkably required to withdraw following a positive test result.

The premature end to that event will not have hit Rahm's confidence, though, and the 26-year-old should not be lacking in that department heading to Torrey Pines. His first PGA Tour title came on the South Course at the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open, while he was a runner-up at the same event three years later.

IN-FORM CANTLAY CAN LEAD THE WAY – Jonathan Wright

An outside bet perhaps but one certainly worth considering, Patrick Cantlay shot up to number seven in the world after winning the Memorial Tournament in a play-off with Collin Morikawa this month.

That triumph may have come after Rahm had to withdraw, but Cantlay topped a strong field with his best performance of a season in which he has won two PGA Tour titles, claimed five top-10 finishes and leads the way in the FedEx Cup standings. The combination of good form and playing on the home should give the Californian great confidence.

FINAU WILL FINALLY END HIS WAIT – Russell Greaves

Tony Finau is a perennial contender at the majors and it's high time he finally got his hands on a title.

The omens bode well for the 31-year-old, who has 10 top-10 finishes in majors. Finau claimed was among the top 10 at the Farmers Insurance Open in 2017, 2018 and 2020 before ending as joint runner-up this year. He obviously enjoys this course.

He is carrying solid form into this one, too, having earned seven finishes inside the top 10 on tour this season.

Tiger Woods began his U.S. Open bid with a double bogey in 2008 at Torrey Pines – "a terrible start", said the man who four days later took the title in a sudden-death play-off, after he and Rocco Mediate could not be separated in a two-man fifth round.

The 18-hole play-off scenario is now history, so there will no repeat of such a marathon effort as the major returns after 13 years to the San Diego course this week, and there will be no Woods either.

That 2008 triumph was a 14th major for the American, yet he had to wait another 11 years until the 15th arrived, the man who once seemed booked in to take the major titles record away from Jack Nicklaus having seen perceptions of his life switch from fairy tale to soap opera.

Woods in 2008 was privately fighting the pain of a double stress fracture of his left tibia that he kept under wraps. Yes, he won the U.S. Open with a broken leg.

Whoever lifts the trophy this Sunday is unlikely to have to overcome the tribulations that faced Woods across that long weekend, and the superstar's absence is sure to be felt ... until the first round begins to take shape and a new narrative plays out.

Back in 2008, tournament organisers upped the intrigue by grouping Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott – the world number one, two and three – together for the opening two rounds.

Local favourite Mickelson recalls the moment when Woods fluffed his opening hole.

"I thought that was pretty inspiring the way he didn't let that affect him," Mickelson said this week. "He stayed to his game plan, stayed focused, stayed patient, and ended up kind of picking his spots where he could get a shot back here or there, and he did, and he ended up winning. That's impressive."

After completing his opening round, Woods said his mindset after shooting six at the first was to "just be patient, long way to go", and he finished one over par.

By the end of day two, Woods stood tied for second place, with Mickelson and Scott in a group sharing 35th position.

"The atmosphere for the whole 36 holes that I played with Phil and Tiger was incredible," Scott recalled earlier this year. "But Thursday morning the energy around the first hole was like I can't compare it to anything else actually.

"It was not even like teeing off at the Masters or anything like that. The build-up ... Tiger obviously being Tiger and Phil, the local hero, one, two and three in the world, of course I was like the third wheel hanging off the back, but it was really fun to be a part of that."

Of course Woods is a once-a-generation talent, but should anyone make a similarly poor start this week, it would be wise to take the blow on the chin and move on.

This course, the long-time home of the annual Farmers Insurance Open, should reward a steady temperament.

Mickelson, fresh from his shock victory last month at the US PGA Championship, where he became the oldest winner of a major, described the Torrey Pines greens on Monday as "very challenging".

"There's a lot of pitch, a lot of contour, and as they get firmer, they're significantly firmer than just the last two days," he said.

"It's very difficult to get it to some of the pin positions, and it's going to be a difficult test. As long as it is at sea level it's going to be a difficult task, but it seems like the set-up is pristine, and it's going to be a fun, very difficult challenge."

 

WHO WILL WIN THIS TIME?

With Woods out of the picture, recovering from the car crash he was said to have been fortunate to survive in February, there will be no repeat of his famous success 13 years ago.

Woods has won the Farmers Insurance Open a record seven times too, so he would have been relishing this week. Brandt Snedeker and Jason Day are both two-time winners of that tournament, and Mickelson has been champion three times, but not since 2001.

Mickelson is seeking the trophy that would give him a career grand slam, but it seems fanciful to expect him to challenge, having rarely been a factor in the majors in recent years until his unexpected win at Kiawah Island.

Stats Perform has taken a combination of factors to build a list of potential contenders, assessing past performance at the Farmers Insurance Open but also weighting displays in majors and recent PGA Tour form.

These scores are built around performance at Torrey Pines from 2016 to this year.

In the calculations, top-10 finishers at the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open receive points on a scale from 15 for the champion down to six points for 10th place. This decreases on a year-by-year sliding scale to 10 points for the 2016 tournament winner and one point for 10th place in that event.

There is also two points awarded per top-10 finish on the PGA Tour in the 2021 season, and substantial points availability for recent major success (10 points per major title in 2020 and 2021, 8pts in 2019, 6pts in 2018, 4pts in 2017, 2pts in 2016).

Not all players in the U.S. Open field have played the Farmers Insurance Open each year, and some are rarely active, if at all, on the PGA Tour, but this may give an inkling of the players who could come into contention at the year's third major.

TONY FINAU, 52 points: Finau followed up three top-10 results at the Farmers (2017, 2018, 2020) by finishing a joint runner-up in 2021, pointing to a clear liking for the course. How he enjoys it later in the year than he usually encounters Torrey Pines remains to be seen. Finau also has seven top-10 finishes of tour in the 2021 season.

JON RAHM, 52 points: His first major title is arguably overdue, given his talent and week-by-week results. Rahm was Farmers champion in 2017 and runner-up in 2020, also finishing top 10 in 2019 and 2021. He has a tour-leading 10 top-10 finishes this season, and would surely have had a win at the Memorial Tournament earlier this month before a positive COVID-19 test ended his title charge after 54 holes.

PATRICK REED, 42pts: This year's champion at the Farmers Insurance Open, Reed was also top six there in 2020, has had six top-10 results on tour this season and landed a Masters title in his not-too-distant past.

RYAN PALMER, 33pts: Palmer tied for second earlier this year at Torrey Pines, just as he did in 2018. Those performances and his four top-10 finishes on tour this year make him perhaps the surprise name on this list.

BROOKS KOEPKA, 32pts: Koepka missed the cut this year at the Farmers and did the same in 2017, and he did not play the tournament in the intervening years. Although Koepka has little left to prove in a wider sense – his mountain of points here is accrued through past major wins and a healthy batch of top-10s this season – he has yet to master Torrey Pines. Koepka has also missed the cut at three of his most recent four tournaments this year.

RORY MCILROY, 31pts: Top-five finishes at the Farmers in 2019 and 2020 augur well for McIlroy, and his five top-10 finishes on tour this season is a tally he will aim to add to over the coming days. It may be asking a lot to expect him to carry off the title, but another high placing would seem realistic.

Next on the list: Justin Rose (30pts), Brandt Snedeker (29), Viktor Hovland (26), Xander Schauffele (26), Jason Day (25), Marc Leishman (25), Hideki Matsuyama (25) and Keegan Bradley (24).

Patrick Cantlay defeated Collin Morikawa in a play-off to win the Memorial Tournament on Sunday.

Cantlay earned his second Memorial title, having also won the tournament in 2019, after Morikawa was unable to match his par putt on the first play-off hole.

A sudden-death shoot-out was needed at Muirfield Village Golf Club after Cantlay and fellow American Morikawa finished 13 under through 72 holes following final-round 71s.

It became a showdown between Cantlay and Morikawa on the final day after runaway leader Jon Rahm was forced to withdraw following a positive coronavirus test.

Defending champion Rahm was six shots clear of Cantlay and Morikawa in the third round before the duo were thrust to the top of the leaderboard.

"It's such a weird situation and so unfortunate because, me included, everyone knows it would be a totally different day today had that [Rahm's withdrawal] not happened," Cantlay said after his fourth PGA Tour triumph.

"There's nothing I can do about it and I just tried to work as hard as I could to reset and really get focused.

"I started off a bit shaky today but I really hit a lot of good shots coming in and it felt the same as when I won a couple of years ago. I felt calm and collected and it worked out."

Scottie Scheffler (70) finished two shots behind Cantlay and Morikawa, while Branden Grace (71) was a stroke further back as Patrick Reed and his three-under-par 69 earned him outright fifth at eight under.

Reigning U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau (71), four-time major winner Rory McIlroy (72) and former world number one Jordan Spieth (73) ended the event in a share of 18th position at one under.

Memorial Tournament runaway leader Jon Rahm has been forced to withdraw from the event after testing positive to COVID-19 on Saturday.

Rahm had carded back-to-back rounds of 64 and 65, including a hole-in-one on Sunday, to lead by six shots at 18-under from Collin Morikawa and Patrick Cantlay at 12-under.

However, the Spanish world number three, who was asymptomatic, was informed by officials immediately following his round in dramatic scenes that he had tested positive and would be required to pull out of the event.

Rahm was seen on the TV broadcast being informed of the news by an official, reacting by stooping in anguish and emotionally putting his hands to his face, before walking off the course shaking his head.

The PGA TOUR put out a statement clarifying that Rahm had been subject to contact-tracing protocols as he had come in close contact with a person who was COVID positive.

The statement said: "Rahm has tested negative every day, but his most recent test – which was performed after the conclusion of his second round (rain delayed) and before the start of his third round – returned positive at approximately 4:20 p.m. ET while Rahm was on the golf course.

"The PGA TOUR’s medical advisor requested a confirmatory test on the original sample, which came back at 6:05 p.m. ET, and was also positive.

"The PGA TOUR’s medical advisor notified Rahm immediately upon completion of his round, and under TOUR protocols, he will be withdrawn from the competition. Rahm is now in isolation, and in accordance with CDC guidelines, he will need to remain in isolation through Tuesday, June 15.

"While this is an incredibly unfortunate situation, throughout 50 events since the PGA TOUR’s Return to Golf, there have been only four positive tests (including Rahm) within competition; Rahm is the first positive, asymptomatic case as part of the TOUR’s routine, contact-tracing protocols."

Rahm had been the equal leader at eight-under on Friday after the second round was suspended due to darkness, alongside Cantlay.

The Spaniard raced away with 11 birdies on Saturday as well as a hole-in-one on the 16th to move into the outright lead as he completed his second round.

Morikawa and Cantlay suddenly find themselves in the lead, with the former having shot a six-under 66 on Saturday with eight birdies.

Cantlay finished with a four-under 68 to sit equal with Morikawa at 12-under, with four birdies in his round including sinking a 22-foot putt on the 18th.

South African Branden Grace and American Scottie Scheffler are both tied for second at nine-under, with Max Homa next best at six-under.

Defending champion Jon Rahm joined Patrick Cantlay at the top of the leaderboard before the second round of the Memorial Tournament was suspended due to darkness.

The opening round was hit by storms at Muirfield Village, where most of the field managed to complete their second rounds on Friday.

Rahm – eyeing back-to-back Memorial titles – was through 13 holes when play was called for the day, the Spanish star level at eight under alongside Cantlay.

Cantlay had posted a five-under-par 67 to surge to the top of the standings in Dublin, Ohio.

The 2019 champion, Cantlay played 33 holes on Friday to be tied for the two-stroke lead through 36 holes, ahead of fellow American Scottie Scheffler (71).

Carlos Ortiz (68), Max Homa (through 14), Xander Schauffele (through 12) and Rickie Fowler (through 11) ended the day three shots off the pace at the PGA Tour event.

Overnight leader Collin Morikawa completed 12 holes but slipped down to a tie for eighth at four under, alongside the likes of Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama.

Former world number one and three-time major champion Jordan Spieth recorded a five-under-par 67 to bounce back from his first-round 76 – the American improving to one under.

Reigning U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau also completed his round – an even-par 72 – to be seven strokes behind Rahm and Cantlay but it was a testing day.

DeChambeau was taunted by fans amid his ongoing feud with fellow star Brooks Koepka, with approximately 10 spectators ejected.

There is no love lost between DeChambeau and Koepka, particularly after footage of the latter emerged during a post-round interview at the US PGA Championship.

In a leaked viral video, four-time major champion Koepka was seen rolling his eyes at DeChambeau and cursed in frustration during the interview.

After Friday's second round, DeChambeau said: "I think it's absolutely flattering what they're doing. They can keep calling me that all day if they want to, I've got no issue with it.

"When you look at it, to most people it's they think it's a distraction, but I grew up learning how to deal with that stuff and I honestly thought it was flattering.''

On Koepka – who is not playing this week – DeChambeau said: "Look, I've got nothing against him. I've got no issues at all. If he wants to play that game, that's great. I'm going to keep trying to play my best game and when it comes down to it, when somebody's that bothered by someone else it is flattering."

Meanwhile, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy shot back-to-back 72s to be even par.

Collin Morikawa carded a six-under-par 66 to claim a one-stroke lead before bad weather halted the opening round of the Memorial Tournament.

Thunderstorms forced a weather-hit day one to be suspended at Muirfield Village, where Morikawa managed to set the early pace before play was stopped on Thursday.

Morikawa – last year's US PGA Championship winner – was almost flawless in Dublin, Ohio after holing seven birdies and just one bogey.

A run of three consecutive birdies and four in five to start his back nine sent Morikawa to the top of the leaderboard, just ahead of fellow American Adam Long.

"It was definitely the rain," Morikawa said. "The greens were soft enough and they're receptive. But you have to hit the fairway. Out here, wet rough, it's not going to help when the rough is pretty long.

Bo Hoag, Nick Taylor, Xander Schauffele and Rafa Cabrera Bello also completed their rounds and ended the day two strokes off the pace, while defending champion Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler are among a group a shot further back at three under.

Reigning U.S. Open champion and 2018 Memorial Tournament winner Bryson DeChambeau – gearing up for his upcoming title defence at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego this month – was two under through three holes at the time of the suspension.

Former world number one Jordan Spieth also completed three holes – one under – when play was called off, while Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, who won the PGA Tour event in 2014, did complete his round following a one-over-par 73.

Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy will return to finish his round early on Friday after going one over through two holes in wet conditions.

Keith Mitchell leads Rory McIlroy by two strokes following three rounds of the Wells Fargo Championship, where Bryson DeChambeau endured a whirlwind 24 hours.

American golfer Mitchell carded a five-under-par 66 to surge to the top of the leaderboard at Quail Hollow on Saturday.

Mitchell, whose solitary PGA Tour title came via the 2019 Honda Classic, was flawless in the penultimate round after holing five birdies without dropping a shot.

But four-time major champion McIlroy is lurking in Charlotte, where the two-time Wells Fargo Championship winner is two shots off the pace.

Former world number one McIlroy, who raced out to the lead, posted a three-under-par 68 to be tied for second position alongside Gary Woodland (70).

McIlroy was also two strokes back at the halfway stage of the tournament on Friday, having made the cut for the first time in two months.

A healthy crowd was in attendance to watch McIlroy lurk heading into the final round and the Northern Irish star – amid the coronavirus pandemic that has impacted attendances – said: "I sort of realised that it's hard for me to bring the best out in myself without that atmosphere that we had today. I'm excited to be in the position I'm in."

U.S. Open champion DeChambeau ended the day eight shots behind Mitchell following his third-round 68.

DeChambeau flew home to Dallas on Friday after thinking he missed the cut. When the cut changed, the American star boarded another flight back to Charlotte.

"It was funny," said DeChambeau. "We did a lot of scrambling last night to get back. One of the scenarios was like turning right back around, but the crew couldn't, you know, refuel and their hours were out. So we had to get a new crew, if anything, and it just didn't work out.

"So we're like, 'Well, let's just go in the morning'. So I left at 02:45am on a flight and I got here at 06:20am Drove 30 minutes to the golf course, put on my clothes in the locker room and headed out to the putting green. I did get a workout last night, though."

DeChambeau has a double-bogey or worse in each of his rounds at this year's Wells Fargo Championship. It is the fifth time in his career that he has recorded at least one double-bogey or worse in each of the first three rounds of a Tour event.

If there ever was a course to get slumping Rory McIlroy back on track, Quail Hollow might be it. 

McIlroy shot a five-under-par 66 Friday at the Wells Fargo Championship to make the cut for the first time in two months and reach four-under for the tournament, two strokes behind leaders Matt Wallace, Gary Woodland and Patrick Rodgers. 

First-round leader Phil Mickelson dropped to a tie for 10th overall after carding a 75 at the Charlotte, North Carolina course. 

Only Roger Sloan (64) went lower than McIlroy in the second round, as the 32-year-old recorded six birdies and just one bogey after shooting 72 in the first round. 

The Northern Irishman recorded his first PGA Tour victory at Quail Hollow in 2010 and won there again in 2015. He lost out to Rickie Fowler in a three-man playoff in 2012. 

McIlroy is playing his first tournament since missing the cut at the Masters and The Players Championship, the latter coming a week after a 10th-place finish at the Arnold Palmer invitational in early March. 

"When you played the way I played sort of through that stretch in March and into April, you're going to feel like you're not as close as you probably are," McIlroy told reporters. 

"But I worked hard after Augusta. I took a week off and reset, which I needed.

"Then I put my head down and worked hard and at least felt better about everything coming in here."

Among the three leaders heading into the weekend, Wallace shot 67 Friday, Rodgers 68 and Woodland 69.

Kramer Hickok is one stroke back at five-under for the tournament, while Scott Piercy, Keith Mitchell, Carlos Ortiz and Scott Stallings are tied with McIlroy at four-under. 

Mickelson and two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson are among those at three-under, while 2018 Masters winner Patrick Reed sits four back of the leaders. 

Justin Thomas is six back entering the weekend, while 2020 U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and 2020 Open Championship winner Shane Lowry just made the two-over cut. 

Among those who missed the cut were past major champions Fowler, Jason Day, Francesco Molinari and Lucas Glover  in addition to defending champion Max Homa and Jon Rahm.

Rahm had made 22 consecutive cuts, the longest active streak on Tour.

Phil Mickelson knows Quail Hollow as well as any course on the PGA Tour, and his comfort there was clear on Thursday as he earned a two-stroke lead in the opening round of the Wells Fargo Championship. 

Mickelson carded a seven-under-par 64 to set the early pace in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the five-time major champion is looking for his first win in 17 consecutive appearances at the event. 

The 50-year-old has always played well there, though, finishing in the top five in half of his 16 previous starts at the tournament. 

Lee Kyoung-hoon and Keegan Bradley were two shots back after shooting 66s.

Mickelson recorded just one bogey on day one while carding eight birdies, including four of the last five holes. 

He won two Champions Tour events last year in his debut season on that circuit, but has not captured a PGA Tour title since winning at Pebble Beach in February 2019. 

Mickelson's last opening-round lead or co-lead came three weeks prior to that in Palm Springs, but he did not want to put any additional pressure on himself after Thursday's strong start.

"I don't want to jump ahead, I want to play a good round tomorrow," said Mickelson, who recorded his lowest score on Tour since a 63 in the second round of the 2020 Travelers Championship. "I have an opportunity to play a course I love with a great pairing.

"I'm playing well and I just want to kind of not get ahead of myself and go play another fun round."

Mickelson, who entered the week ranked number 115 in the world, has 30 career opening-round leads/co-lads – the second most on Tour since 1992.

American star Justin Thomas closed out the first round five shots off the pace, while U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and 2012 tournament winner Rickie Fowler are a stroke further back.

Former Masters champion Patrick Reed shot a 71 as Xander Schauffele and former world number one Rory McIlroy ended the day one over the card.

McIlroy – winner of the Wells Fargo Championship in 2015 – mixed three bogeys and two birdies on a challenging day for the four-time major champion.

Jon Rahm struggled following his opening-round 76, while defending champion Max Homa's bid for back-to-back titles started with a six-over-par 77.

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