Justin Rose will go into the third round of the US PGA Championship just one shot adrift of leader J B Holmes after moving to level par with a 67.
England’s Ryder Cup hopeful, currently occupying the tenth and final automatic qualifying spot on the combined Points Lists, opened with a 73 but got the bit between his teeth during his early start to round two at Oakland Hills Country Club.
He started on the tenth and did not take long to get into his stride, collecting birdies at the 12th and 15th holes before his only blip of the day came at the 18th.
Despite the set-back he recovered by collecting strokes at the second and fourth, heading into the clubhouse ahead of a stiffening breeze.
American Ben Curtis also improved on an opening 73 by equalling Rose’s best-of-the-day 67, and those two were joined by Charlie Wi, winner of the 2006 Maybank Malaysian Open on The European Tour International Schedule, after the Korean posted a second consecutive level par round of 70.
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, joint third in The Open last month, lies a further shot back and just two off the halfway lead thanks to a 70 and was joined by 2001 US PGA Champion, David Toms, after the American carded a 69.
“I'm ecstatic with that round of golf,” Rose said. “Three under par in those conditions was more than I could have hoped for. I know Ben Curtis shot three-under too but the average score today is going to be very, very high and guys are going to have a hard time this afternoon so I'm glad to be done.”
Stenson started badly on the back nine with bogeys at the tenth and 18th, but he collected strokes on the second, fifth and sixth before giving one back at the eighth. Considering the weather, the Swede was pleased with his showing.
He said: “It's blowing a little bit out there. It's firming up both the fairways and the greens. And it's very difficult to get it close. The pins aren't too easy either, so it's tough to shoot a good number.
“I was just fighting for par on the back nine, my front nine, and then I managed to hit a couple of those shots close on the front nine and made three.”
Overnight co-leaders Robert Karlsson of Sweden and India’s Jeev Milkha Singh both started later in the day with the Swede struggling and Singh initially thriving.
Karlsson had bogeyed seven holes before he carded a birdie at his 15th hole and finished at five over par 145 after a 77.
Singh, meanwhile, maintained his challenge with a four over par 74 to lie at two over par in a group that also included Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Argentina’s Angel Cabrera.
“Unfortunately things didn't really happen for me on the back nine,” said Garcia. “I played the back nine better than I did the front. And it's a hard course. It's very difficult and this is a Major. It's not supposed to be easy. We're pushed to the limit and but things can happen at any time. So I just hope that I got rid of my bad moments today and hopefully I can have a good weekend and have a chance on Sunday.”
Ian Poulter, attempting to play his way into The Ryder Cup qualifying places, was one over par for his second round having opened with a three over 74 on Thursday.
Double Open Champion Padraig Harrington returned following last night’s one over par 71 and opened with a birdie but then carded seven bogeys with just two more birdies to leave him at five over for the tournament after a four over 74..
“I just ran out of steam,” Harrington said. “It was a struggle for me. I did my best to be ready for the week but clearly I'm not.
“What can I say, the harder I tried the worse it got. I haven't got the focus this week. I'm just not with it. Obviously I'm still just having a hangover after winning The Open.”
Holmes leads on one under par after a 68. His huge drives drew a lot of attention and afterwards he said: “I played great. I hit the ball well. I left a few putts out there, but overall, it was a very good ball striking round is probably the best way to describe it.
“I'm hitting the ball real well. If I can hit it like I did today, I really felt like I almost shot the highest score I could have shot today; I hit the ball that well.
“I hit the ball well yesterday, but it didn't really show it. I didn't hit very many greens. I had a lot of shots that were really good and just trickled over and I would have 20 feet from the hole but I was chipping all day.
“I'm hitting the ball good. I feel pretty good going into the weekend.”