Rory McIlroy faced an uphill battle to make the halfway cut as England’s Matt Fitzpatrick surged through the field in the second round of the US PGA Championship.
McIlroy’s only birdie of the opening day came on the 18th hole and gave the four-time major winner cause for cautious optimism after a 72, but that quickly disappeared on the fearsome back nine at Bethpage Black.
Starting on the 10th, McIlroy hacked his way down the 492-yard par four to card a double-bogey six and dropped another shot on the next following a tee shot into a fairway bunker.
Another wayward drive on the 12th forced McIlroy to pitch out of the heavy rough on to the fairway, but from 150 yards he flew his approach over the green, failed to make the putting surface with his chip and two-putted from the fringe for another double bogey.
McIlroy, whose victory in the 2014 US PGA at Valhalla is his last major title to date, stopped the rot with a birdie on the par-five 13th but dropped another shot on the 15th as he went to the turn in 40 to lie seven over par.
In stark contrast, Fitzpatrick had played the same stretch in 33 thanks to birdies on the 10th and 17th before rattling in four more birdies in succession from the first.
That took the former US Amateur champion to six under for the day and one under for the tournament, six shots behind overnight leader and defending champion Brooks Koepka.
Koepka, who is seeking a fourth major title in his last eight starts, was among the later starters in a group containing Masters champion Tiger Woods and Open champion Francesco Molinari, who were both nine off the pace after opening rounds of 72.
- Press Association