By Phil Casey, PA Golf Correspondent, Rochester
Rory McIlroy admitted he was tempted to throw caution to the wind after surprisingly finding himself in contention for a third US PGA title at Oak Hill.
Despite continuing to struggle off the tee, McIlroy carded a second round of 69 for a halfway total of level par to lie just five off the lead shared by Scottie Scheffler, Corey Conners and Viktor Hovland.
First round leader Bryson DeChambeau and fellow American Justin Suh were two shots off the lead, with England’s Callum Tarren – who only secured a place in the field on Friday after former champion Martin Kaymer withdrew – another stroke back after a superb 67.
Rory McIlroy finishes his second round of the #PGAChamp level par 👀 pic.twitter.com/dN9aSKDyCY
— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) May 19, 2023
Masters runner-up Brooks Koepka was alongside Tarren on two under thanks to a 66 which included four birdies in the last seven holes.
Justin Rose hit just two fairways but somehow conjured up a second round of 70 to lie one under, with McIlroy and former Open champion Shane Lowry on level par.
Lowry had stormed into contention with six birdies in the space of eight holes before dropping shots on the 17th and 18th in his 67.
McIlroy was among the later starters who took advantage of unexpectedly calm conditions and a course softened by several rain showers to cover his last 10 holes in three under par.
“I need to be patient the way I’m hitting it off the tee,” McIlroy said. “I stayed really patient and I think it was rewarded with a couple of breaks and birdies towards the end.
“I think with how terribly I’ve felt over the ball, the fact I am only five back… I’m not saying it could be up there with one of my best performances but when I holed that (birdie) putt on the last I thought I can’t believe I’m only five back.
“If I can get the ball in play off the tee I’ll have a shot and at this point I might just tee it high and bomb it everywhere. I may as well just swing it hard and go for it.”
World number one Jon Rahm shot 68 to make the halfway cut on four over par, but playing partner and US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick bogeyed the last two holes to miss out by a shot.
Club professional Michael Block had earlier insisted he could contend for an extraordinary victory after a second consecutive 70 saw him on the same score as McIlroy and Lowry.
Block, who is one of 20 PGA professionals in the field in Rochester and the head pro at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in California, made the cut for the first time in seven majors, but was setting his sights considerably higher.
There is a name making waves at Oak Hill this weekend. You probably know it by now.
Michael Block, the PGA Head Professional at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, Calif., checked in after his second round at T14.
— PGA Championship (@PGAChampionship) May 19, 2023
“I am having a great time,” Block, 46, said after a round containing four birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey on the fifth, which was the result of a dreaded shank off the tee.
“I have no pressure, I have a job and a pay cheque waiting for me at my club. I don’t have to make putts to pay for my mortgage. This is a beautiful thing I have here.
“I feel like I’ve got the game this week to compete, to tell you the truth. I feel like I could shoot even par out here every day. I feel at the end of the four days that might be a pretty good result.”
Block has the words “Why not?” stamped on the balls he uses as a reminder not to doubt his abilities when the pressure is on, something which stems from holing a putt to qualify for the 2007 US Open.
And asked what the ultimate “why not?” would be, he added: “To win, by far. As weird as it sounds, I’m going to compete. I promise you that.”