Recap of the day
Morning wave: Matching his career-low round, Jason Dufner surged to the top the leaderboard with an 8-under-par 63 to post the clubhouse target of 11-under 131. That was a shot better than joint-R1 leader Joel Dahmen, who handed in a second straight 66. Rory McIlroy had shared the lead after 18 holes and was going along nicely enough at 9-under with two to play but finished double bogey-bogey to slip to 6-under and five back. Max Homa later negotiated those same two holes (8 and 9) in birdie-birdie to complete an excellent 63 and join Dahmen at 10-under, just one behind.
Afternoon wave: This was a day when the morning starters had the advantage. Patrick Reed stroked a 69 to join McIlroy on 6-under but that was as good as it got for the afternoon wave.
Revised betting: 7/2 McIlroy, 4/1 Dufner, 9/2 Dahmen, 10/1 Day, Rose, Homa, 12/1 Reed
Saturday weather forecast
Beware. Isolated thunderstorms are a possibility with temperatures in the high 70s and a 30% chance of rain.
Leaders after 36 holes
Jason Dufner (63, 131) – A ball-striking masterclass with an eagle and seven birdies, Dufner gained over five strokes tee-to-green. He also ranks 1st for Scrambling this week. And yet it’s come out of thin air as his form is abysmal. Then again, he’s always walked to the beat of a different drum.
Joel Dahmen (66, 132) – Just one bogey thru’ 36 holes so far. Hit 15 greens in Thursday’s 66 and went one better today (ranks 1st GIR). Putter hot too.
Max Homa (66, 132) – Matched Dufner’s 63 and tied his career low with eight birdies and ten pars. Missed just three GIR and topped the SG: Putting stats when he handed in his card.
Fate of the favorites
Rory McIlroy (70, 136) – Weird finish after what looked another strong lap of Quail Hollow. He’s striking it like a potential winner but negative SG: Putting today so needs to clean that up.
Jason Day (69, 137) – He found 10 of 14 fairways instead of just six in round one. But he is just 40% at saving par when he misses greens this week.
Justin Rose (67, 137) – Simple formula for Rose today. Birdied all the par 5s, added another at his final hole (9th) and didn’t make a single bogey. Upped his GIR count from nine to 15 and putted well too.
Rickie Fowler (70, 141) – Can’t get much going this week. Just two birdies against a lone bogey today after two of each in Thursday’s 71. Strong SG: Off-The-Tee numbers but the rest of his game isn’t sharp enough.
Rory McIlroy (70): “Obviously disappointing. Played some really good stuff today. I probably played better today than I did yesterday in terms of how I hit it off the tee ball-striking wise. It's a funny game. I stood up here last night talking about that I got the most out of it yesterday and today it was the complete opposite. Still right there going into the weekend. Just need to try and shake off that bad finish today and get off to a good start tomorrow.”
Jason Dufner (63): "See how it goes being in the heat of it on Saturday and Sunday. I've been there before. It's been a while, but I kind of know what to expect. It will be a good challenge to see where I'm at, what I'm doing."
Max Homa (63): "My attitude is awesome nowadays. I don't really get too down on myself. I have an awesome, awesome caddie that doesn't let me. If I'm quiet, he yells at me and tells me quiet golfers are usually very mean to themselves, so we have a good thing going."
Road to victory at Quail Hollow
2018 Jason Day – R1: 17th, R2: 2nd, R3: 1st
2017 Played at Eagle Point
2016 James Hahn – R1: 17th, R2: 13rd, R3: 3rd
2015 Rory McIlroy – R1: 30th, R2: 5th, R3: 1st
2014 J.B. Holmes – R1: 16th, R2: 4th, R3: 1st
Notes: Rory has won his two Wells Fargo titles by coming from seven (2010) and five back (2015) respectively. Perhaps that late slip today was just McIlroy positioning himself a few off the lead to give us another one of his famous Quail Hollow weekend charges. He came from the cut line to win his first title here, a feat often recalled when TV commentators tell us something similar might happen at a major (it never does).
Fate of the 36-hole leaders at Quail Hollow – where did they finish?
Notes: The weekend flops, Malnati and Carbrera, are the exceptions rather than the rule as just two other halfway leaders dating back to the first edition in 2003 have finished worse than T8. But you won’t find winners by looking at the very top of the 36-hole leaderboard. Just one man has converted - Tiger in 2007 after being in a three-way tie at the midpoint.
Focus on – Jason Dufner’s 63
Where did this come from?! Dufner had previously managed just two rounds in the 60s in six visits to Quail Hollow while his last ten starts on the PGA Tour show nine missed cuts and T63. Perhaps Duf is feeling some good vibes with the PGA Championship approaching in two weeks’ time. That win came at Oak Hill in New York (we’re back in the Big Apple at Bethpage for this year’s) and, just like this week, he opened 68-63 when winning that 2013 major. That’s some nice symmetry. Even more interesting is Dufner’s record when holding 36-hole leads. He’s had six of them since 2012 and converted five times, finishing runner-up in the other. Despite his wonky form of late, history tells us his stay at the top this week won’t be a temporary one.
Focus on - Max Homa
He made eight birdies and no bogeys to follow a 2-under 69 with a 63, tying his career-low PGA Tour lap (previously R3/2015 Sony Open in Hawaii). He was one of just three players to avoid a bogey in round two and the two-time Web.com Tour winner remains in search of his first TOUR victory in his 69thstart. His current best effort (of three career top-10 finishes) is T6 at the 2015 Sony Open in Hawaii.