The European Tour challenge in the 85th US PGA Championship gathered pace during the second round with José Coceres, Ernie Els and Adam Scott moving to within four strokes of the lead held by American Shaun Micheel at the halfway stage at Oak Hill Country Club.
European Tour Members came to the fore with some of the best rounds of another testing day in Rochester, New York, as only five players bettered the par of 70, Argentina’s Coceres posting the joint lowest score of the second round with a 68 to lie alongside Els and Scott on one over par 141.
Coceres’s 68 was matched late in the day by Micheel, who birdied four of his last five holes to move two shots clear of the field heading into the weekend in his first appearance in the US PGA Championship.
Scott, winner of the Scandic Carlsberg Scandinavian Masters a fortnight ago, also broke par with a 69 despite bogeying the last hole to lie in joint fifth place.
Another player to break 70 was England’s Paul Casey who bravely fought back from an opening 79 with a 69 to lie on eight over par, surviving the halfway cut right on the mark while Germany’s Alex Cejka also broke 70 to move to three over par 143.
Els, the current leader of the Volvo Order of Merit having won three times on the 2003 European Tour International, has picked up top tens in the previous two United States Major Championships this year and is again among the leaders in his bid to add the US PGA Championship title to his two US Opens and last year’s Open Championship.
The World Number Two was on course to post a sub par halfway total but finished with a double bogey six on his last hole, the ninth at Oak Hill, to card a level par 70 for a one over par 141.
Els had a golden chance to join the leaders but found the greenside bunker with his approach and, after splashing out to 25 feet, three putted.
"I just got too aggressive with my first putt on the ninth," Els said. "Some of the greens are getting firmer than others and it's getting a little tricky out there. But at least I'm here for the weekend. I really wanted to get to red numbers by the end of the day, and I almost did it."
Other European Tour Members very much in the frame include South African Tim Clark and Fiji’s Vijay Singh on two over par, England’s Luke Donald, making his debut in the Championship, on three over par, and another South African in Trevor Immelman a further shot back on four over par.
Swedish Ryder Cup player Niclas Fasth shot a level par 70 to lie on six over while Angel Cabrera, Europe’s Ryder Cup Captain Bernhard Langer, last week’s Nordic Open Champion Ian Poulter, Gary Evans, Padraig Harrington, Peter Lonard, José Maria Olazabal and Eduardo Romero all progressed to the weekend.