Mighty McIlroy on the charge at Quail Hollow

Tiger Woods is in danger of missing the cut at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, but Rory McIlroy’s hopes of winning back the world number one spot remain very much alive.

Woods — who last played the event two years ago, when he also bowed out after two days — went around in a one-over 73 yesterday, leaving him level for the tournament.

With the projected cut set at one under, the game’s former dominating force looks set to return home early.

The same cannot be said for McIlroy, though. Chasing a top-seven finish to dethrone Luke Donald at the top of the rankings, he shaved four shots off the par score yesterday, leaving himself six under for the tournament.

Leading the way is Nick Watney, who carded a beautiful eight-under round of 64, which would have been even better were it not for a dropped shot on the 13th. Webb Simpson trails him by a shot, with Stewart Cink and Ben Crane a further one down.

Former world number one Lee Westwood, who can make McIlroy require a top-six finish by winning the event, was level par after six holes and one under for the event.

Meanwhile Ireland’s Damien McGrane spoilt his superb season in taking a double bogey at the last to miss the cut in the centenary Spanish Open in Seville. McGrane arrived in the ancient Spanish city having made the halfway cut in his past six events but put his ball into a water hazard at 18 for a round of 75 on the Real Club de Golf de Sevilla course.

His six over par tally was two shots shy of playing all four rounds in the €2m event.

Frenchman Gregory Bourdy threw down the gauntlet to his rivals in posting a tournament best of 66 to move one clear of the field on five under par. Italian Matteo Manassero is among four players next best at four under par with the 19-year old needing to finish top seven in Seville to be assured of contesting next month’s US Open.

Peter Lawrie is at level par with the Dubliner grabbing three birdies but also four bogeys in a 73 and praising the input earlier in the week of long-time coach, Brendan McDaid. “I have to thank Brendan as he came down with me earlier in the week and we worked hard on a number of aspects in my game and it’s really paid off,” said Lawrie. Joining Lawrie is Simon Thornton who carded a second 73 for a two over par tally and assuring him of only his second pay cheque this season in five Race to Dubai starts.

Ballyclare’s Gareth Maybin added a 75 to his opening 73 but will ensure himself an eighth pay cheque in 10 events this year.

And Shane Lowry, who despite holing his second shot for an eagle at the par four eighth hole, signed for 77 that also included a triple bogey at 15 and then a double bogey at 17 to miss the cut at eight over par total.

Meanwhile Richard O’Donovan knows precisely what to do to keep pace with the front-runners in the Lytham Trophy.

“This is as tough a course I’ve encountered,” he said after posting a one-over-par 71 to head the seven-strong Irish contingent alongside 2011 Walker Cup player, Alan Dunbar.

“It’s my first visit here and the layout is tighter than I imagined. You have to plot your way round and try to keep out of the bunkers,” he added as he trailed first round leader Daniel Huizing, from the Netherlands, by five strokes.

The Lucan man erred at the first hole, a testing 189-yard par three, where he over-clubbed and landed in thick rough, then found an unplayable lie off his drive at the fourth and took a penalty drop. From then on he kept out of trouble, harvesting birdies at the 11th and 13th, until a bunkered approach to Royal Lytham’s tricky 17th cost him another shot.

Lytham Trophy First Round: 67-D Huizing (Netherlands); 68-B Westgate (Trevose); 69-C Hinton (The Oxfordshire), R Bell (Downfield), M Lampert (Germany), J Burnett (Sleaford), P Howard (Southport & Ainsdale), L Johnson (Kings Lynn); 70-A Chesters (Hawkstone Park), M Wallace (Moor Park), M Saunders (Dartford), A Culverwell (Dunbar), C Griffiths (Wentworth), C Berardo (France). Irish: 71- R O’Donovan (Lucan), A Dunbar (Rathmore); 72-D McElroy (Ballemena); 73-H Diamond (Belvoir Park); 74-R Whitson (Mourne), N Grant (Knock), A Hogan (Newlands).

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