McIlroy lurks at Wells Fargo Championship after bounce-back round

By Sports Desk May 07, 2021

If there ever was a course to get slumping Rory McIlroy back on track, Quail Hollow might be it. 

McIlroy shot a five-under-par 66 Friday at the Wells Fargo Championship to make the cut for the first time in two months and reach four-under for the tournament, two strokes behind leaders Matt Wallace, Gary Woodland and Patrick Rodgers. 

First-round leader Phil Mickelson dropped to a tie for 10th overall after carding a 75 at the Charlotte, North Carolina course. 

Only Roger Sloan (64) went lower than McIlroy in the second round, as the 32-year-old recorded six birdies and just one bogey after shooting 72 in the first round. 

The Northern Irishman recorded his first PGA Tour victory at Quail Hollow in 2010 and won there again in 2015. He lost out to Rickie Fowler in a three-man playoff in 2012. 

McIlroy is playing his first tournament since missing the cut at the Masters and The Players Championship, the latter coming a week after a 10th-place finish at the Arnold Palmer invitational in early March. 

"When you played the way I played sort of through that stretch in March and into April, you're going to feel like you're not as close as you probably are," McIlroy told reporters. 

"But I worked hard after Augusta. I took a week off and reset, which I needed.

"Then I put my head down and worked hard and at least felt better about everything coming in here."

Among the three leaders heading into the weekend, Wallace shot 67 Friday, Rodgers 68 and Woodland 69.

Kramer Hickok is one stroke back at five-under for the tournament, while Scott Piercy, Keith Mitchell, Carlos Ortiz and Scott Stallings are tied with McIlroy at four-under. 

Mickelson and two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson are among those at three-under, while 2018 Masters winner Patrick Reed sits four back of the leaders. 

Justin Thomas is six back entering the weekend, while 2020 U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and 2020 Open Championship winner Shane Lowry just made the two-over cut. 

Among those who missed the cut were past major champions Fowler, Jason Day, Francesco Molinari and Lucas Glover  in addition to defending champion Max Homa and Jon Rahm.

Rahm had made 22 consecutive cuts, the longest active streak on Tour.

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    Antoine Griezmann admits playing in front of a full stadium in sweltering conditions affected France in their surprise 1-1 Euro 2020 draw with Hungary on Saturday.

    Barcelona forward Griezmann equalised 24 minutes from time in Budapest to cancel out Attila Fiola's first-half opener and salvage Les Blues a point in the Group F match.

    Hungary were spurred on by a raucous crowd, with around 61,000 spectators in attendance thanks to an easing of coronavirus restrictions in the Hungarian capital.

    France had to settle for a point that leaves them waiting on a place in the last 16 and Griezmann puts his side's disjointed display down to a couple of factors.

    "It was a difficult match for us," he told beIN SPORTS. "With the fans here in a full stadium, we lost our normal habits. We struggled to get along and it was also super-hot.

    "We got caught out at the back and didn't know how to find each other. We didn't know how to put away our chances in the first half.

    "We know that we have players on the bench to make the difference at any time. We have to continue to work hard and improve."

    Griezmann's goal was his seventh at the Euros, putting him behind only Cristiano Ronaldo (11) and Michel Platini (nine) in the list of the competition's all-time top scorers.

    That strike did at least rescue France a point that moves them to the top of Group F ahead of Germany's clash with Portugal – Les Blues' next opponents – in Munich.

    France were never quite at their best in the group stage before going on to win the 2018 World Cup, and Griezmann is confident that his side will improve as Euro 2020 goes on.

    "It reminds me a little of the World Cup when we were made to suffer in the group stage," he told TF1. "We will have to quickly recover and go again against Portugal. 

    "We always knew it would be complicated in the heat and noise in the stands. I have full confidence in the group."

    Fiola's goal was the first France had conceded in 527 minutes, but they battled back to make it nine matches without defeat at major tournaments.

    Skipper Hugo Lloris is staying positive after the draw with Hungary, which ends a run of five successive wins in all competitions.

    "We gave 100 per cent to get the draw today, even if that is not the result we wanted," he told TF1. "We have to be content with the scoreline.

    "The opposition made the most of their chance and were well organised, helped by their supporters. We're disappointed but you have to stay positive."

    Asked if the heat played a part as well as the deafening home crowd, Lloris said: "That plays a part, but conceding a goal just before half-time also didn't help us.

    "If we had taken the lead it would have changed the dynamics. But we came back into the game and have to be satisfied and recover for the next match."

  • Verstappen impressed by Red Bull strides after beating Hamilton to pole in France Verstappen impressed by Red Bull strides after beating Hamilton to pole in France

    Max Verstappen feels his pole position for the French Grand Prix underlines the progress Red Bull are making as they take the Formula One title fight to Mercedes.

    Mercedes are hoping to bounce back at Circuit Paul Ricard after chastening outings at the street circuits of Monaco and Baku.

    But while they are close to Red Bull at the more traditional track in Le Castellet, they could not prevent Verstappen from claiming pole on Saturday with an advantage of 0.258 seconds to Hamilton.

    Valtteri Bottas can also apply some pressure to Verstappen after the Finn came third, just ahead of the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez, who won a thriller in Baku last time out. 

    Mercedes were dominant in the two French Grand Prix editions held since the race returned to the F1 calendar as Hamilton won from pole in 2018 and 2019.

    But they will have to triumph from behind this time if they are to make it a hat-trick.

    "So far it has been a really positive weekend on a track where it has been normally a bit difficult for us," Verstappen said after claiming his first pole since the opening race in Bahrain.

    "FP2 was a bit of a turnaround for us - of course to get pole position was even better and really nice. There is some great promise from our side and I hope we can keep it up.

    "No points were scored but for us it is a great day and we have to finish it off on Sunday and try to get the 25 points that we lost in Baku.

    "I am confident [with our race car] actually, the car felt good in FP2 so I am looking forward to it."

    The lost points in Baku referred to Verstappen suffering a heartbreaking tyre failure as he closed in on victory, though his pain would be eased slightly as Perez ensured a Red Bull triumph while Hamilton did not pick up any points.

    It has been another difficult few days for Hamilton, who was pleased to end up on the front row for a race where weather could be a factor.

    "A really, really hard weekend - mentally and just trying to get the car into a happy place," said the seven-time world champion, who trails Verstappen by four points.

    "You wouldn't believe how many changes I have made over the time since FP1, going round and round kind of chasing the tail and then ending up coming back to something similar to where we started. 

    "Congratulations to Max, they are incredibly quick, they've got a new engine this week and they are quick in the straights - a lot of time for them there.

    "We have a race on our hands and we are loving the battle - we are going to keep pushing, fighting and giving it everything.

    "Obviously in second you have at least a fighting chance down to turn one, plus there will be some interesting strategy and maybe some rain so a chance to see who is the rain master!"

    Bottas is under pressure at Mercedes after a miserable start to the season but was satisfied with a solid weekend so far, having been competitive throughout practice.

    "It has been a strong weekend, for sure a lot better than a couple of weeks ago, so at least we have seen the pace has been there," he said. "The last run in Q3 felt good for me.

    "We have seen it is going to be close with Red Bull as it was in qualifying. Can't be too happy being third because it has been a strong weekend otherwise, but I think Red Bull were faster."

    Yuki Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher crashed as two red flags in Q1 led to Lance Stroll being eliminated without setting a time.

    Esteban Ocon, at his home race after signing a new deal with Alpine, was among the eliminated drivers in Q2, as was Sebastian Vettel, who took an impressive second place in Azerbaijan.

    There was a big gap between the two leading teams and the rest in Q3, with Carlos Sainz ultimately taking fifth ahead of home favourite Pierre Gasly and the pole-sitter from the last two races, Charles Leclerc.

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  • Hungary 1-1 France: Griezmann strikes as Les Blues held amid raucous atmosphere in Budapest Hungary 1-1 France: Griezmann strikes as Les Blues held amid raucous atmosphere in Budapest

    World champions France were unable to confirm their place in the Euro 2020 knockout stages as they were held to a surprise 1-1 draw by Hungary amid a raucous atmosphere in Budapest.

    Hungary frustrated Portugal for 84 minutes before their defence was breached in their opening game and they gave France an almighty scare in Saturday's clash in front of a deafening home crowd, which saw them rewarded with a point.

    After squandering a few big chances, France's run of 527 minutes without conceding was ended by Attila Fiola's goal just before half-time at the packed Puskas Arena.

    Antoine Griezmann fired in a leveller with 66 minutes played, but Les Blues – who saw a late penalty appeal dismissed – could not find a winning goal and had to settle for a point that leaves them waiting on their place in the last 16.

    Peter Gulacsi made a brilliant save after 14 minutes to keep out Griezmann from close range, but the offside flag likely would have denied the forward had he scored.

    Kylian Mbappe then sent a free header spinning wide after being picked out by Lucas Digne and Karim Benzema miscued off target from an even bigger chance soon after.

    Those missed opportunities came back to haunt France as Fiola was played in behind down the left after a one-two with Roland Sallai and coolly converted past Hugo Lloris.

    The introduction of Ousmane Dembele around the hour mark gave France a spark and the Barcelona forward struck the outside of the post two minutes after coming on.

    France's pressure told seven minutes later when Mbappe – spotted by a Lloris pass – teed up Griezmann with the help of a scuffed Willi Orban clearance for a simple finish.

    Mbappe guided a Griezmann delivery into the side netting and Gulacsi was alert to Mbappe's next attempt as France, whose appeals for a stoppage-time spot-kick following some shirt grabbing at a set-piece were denied, failed to find a winner.

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