CHARLOTTE North Carolina (Reuters) - Justin Rose’s hopes of repeating as U.S. Open champion next month got a timely boost as he moved within a stroke of the lead in the Wells Fargo Championship second round on Friday.
The Englishman, who spent the first part of the year recovering from tendinitis in his right shoulder, had a chip-in eagle from 70 feet on his way to a five-under-par 67 on a cool morning at Quail Hollow.
“Obviously you can never win it on Thursday and Friday, you can only lose it, so two solid days put me in good position for the weekend,” Rose, who will defend his U.S. Open title at nearby Pinehurst No. 2 next month, told reporters.
Rose was in third place at eight-under 136 at the halfway mark, while Argentina’s Angel Cabrera (69) and American Martin Flores (68) set the pace at nine under.
“Those chip-in eagles, they get you going,” Rose said, referring to his successful effort at the par-five 15th.
“I did everything well in spells today (and) finished with a nice putt for par at the last hole, which made the day feel incredibly positive.”
World number 10 Rose has not won since notching his first major title at Merion last June, and is still playing his way back into form after being hampered by a shoulder injury that kept him sidelined for the first six weeks this year.
“I’ve had a lot of stop-starts this year and I just felt like I needed to get toned and sharp, and that’s beginning to show up,” said Rose.
“It would be nice to go back (to the U.S. Open) with the confidence of having just won a tournament.”
First round leader Cabrera used his ample length off the tee to stay in the hunt for his first victory in a regular PGA Tour event.
Both of his official tour wins have come in majors, at the 2007 U.S. Open and 2009 Masters.
“I was hoping to have a round below par today and ended up having a great round,” said Cabrera, whose best result in a non-major on the PGA Tour was a third placing here in 2010.
”It’s a course that lets me hit driver a lot and for that reason it probably fits my game well and that’s why I play well here.
“I think I hit it better today than yesterday. I’ve been working really hard to have weeks like this and I‘m going to keep working and more weeks like this will come.”
Co-leader Flores, who has not won on tour, made an eagle when he holed out from 105 yards at the par-four 11th hole.
It was not a good day for the two biggest names in the field as Phil Mickelson shot 75 to fall seven strokes back while Rory McIlroy carded a 76, his worst ever score here, to plunge 10 shots behind. Both putted poorly.
“I can’t believe the difference in putting from yesterday to today, ”said British Open champion Mickelson, who had 34 putts.
“Yesterday I saw every ball go in the hole and today I couldn’t get them to fall, which is funny because the greens were so perfect.”
Northern Irishman McIlroy dropped five shots in the first four holes and in the end did well to make the cut on the number.
“At least I made it through to the weekend,” said the 2010 champion, who also made the cut with nothing to spare when he won four years ago.
Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge shot the best round of the day, a 10-under 62 that was an 18-stroke improvement over his opening round.
Editing by Frank Pingue and Mark Lamport-Stokes