FARMINGDALE, New York – Jordan Spieth charged up the PGA Championship leaderboard on Friday to sit two shots back of overnight leader Brooks Koepka, while Rory McIlroy used a late birdie run to put himself right on the projected cut line.
Spieth, who would complete the career grand slam with a win this week, overcame some errant tee shots and looked like his old self on the greens as he putted with confidence en route to a four-under-par 66 that left him at five-under for the week.
The three-time major champion, who arrived at Bethpage Black with just two top-25 finishes all year, began the second round on the back nine and made his sixth birdie of the day at his penultimate hole with a 39-foot putt.
“I made a few good par-saving putts and took advantage of the easy holes,” said Spieth.
“This golf course, you can’t (force it). It requires more patience, which feeds into what I’m trying to do.”
Koepka was among the late starters and went off in the fourth-to-last grouping from the par-four first hole in the company of Masters champion Tiger Woods and British Open champion Francesco Molinari.
World number one Dustin Johnson, playing in the same group as Spieth, recovered from an opening bogey with five birdies over a sizzling stretch that had him two shots back of Koepka after just seven holes.
But Johnson gave one back with a sloppy bogey on the short 18th and missed good birdie opportunities at the first and second holes before a messy three-putt from 89-feet at the par-three third.
The long-hitting American added a late birdie for a three-under-par 67 that left him three shots off the pace, along with compatriot Daniel Berger (66), who made an unexpected charge, given he has just one top-10 finish in 11 starts this season.
In the clubhouse a further two shots back were New Zealand’s Danny Lee (74) and South Korea’s Sung Kang (70), who five days ago collected his maiden PGA tour win at the AT&T Byron Nelson in Dallas.
Lee, a surprise contender who was six-under and one shot back of Koepka when he set off with the first group at the par-four 10th, came crashing back to earth after falling back to even par just seven holes into his round.
But a determined Lee, who made two consecutive bogeys from the 11th hole and a pair of double-bogeys starting at the 15th hole, shook off his rough start to stay in the hunt.
“I had one heck of a fight on the back nine, made a lot of good putts, a lot of birdies,” said Lee.
“And I think I needed that to have a good momentum carryover for tomorrow.”
Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy was sitting four shots outside the projected cut-line of three over after a miserable start that included two double-bogeys, a pair of bogeys and a birdie after six holes.
But the Northern Irishman made four birdies over a late five-hole stretch to salvage a one-over-par 71 that all but ensured he will get to stick around for the weekend.
Spaniard Jon Rahm was not so lucky as he was undone by five bogeys over his front nine en route to a five-over-par 75 that left him at five over for the tournament.
Four-time champion Woods, competing this week for the first time since his emotional Masters triumph, will be looking to make a charge after his short game failed him during an opening round where he finished nine shots back of Koepka.