McIlroy came to Memphis looking to tune up his game before heading to San Francisco for his U.S. Open title defense at The Olympic Club. He birdied three of his final four holes, and had an eagle, five birdies and two bogeys to match his lowest PGA Tour round this year.
With a birdie on No. 18, McIlroy reached 7 under to break out of a four-way tie for the lead.
“It’s nice to see my name on that part of the leaderboard,” McIlroy said. “It’s not nice when you’re struggling to make the cut on a Friday afternoon. It was great. It’s nice to be through to the weekend obviously. It’s obviously even nicer to be leading and have a great chance.”
Jeff Maggert, tied for the first-round lead with John Merrick, shot 68 to match J.B. Holmes (64) and Kevin Stadler (65) at 6 under. Merrick had 69 to join Chad Campbell (67) and Aiken native Kevin Kisner (66) at 5 under.
Davis Love III, the Americans’ Ryder Cup captain, had a 68 and was tied with Padraig Harrington (68) at 4 under. John Daly birdied his first three holes on his back nine to get to 5 under but finished with a 69 and was at tied at 3 under.
No one has ever won a PGA Tour event, then followed up the next week by winning the U.S. Open. After playing only two rounds each at The Players Championship, the BMW PGA Championship in England and then the Memorial last week, McIlroy isn’t thinking about history. His goal in Memphis is playing as much competitive golf as possible.
“I saw a lot of positive signs with my ball striking. Hit a lot of good iron shots and drivers. So that was something that I was really working on the last couple of weeks and feels like it’s coming together for me. So excited to be in this position for the weekend. This is really what I wanted heading into next week,” McIlroy said.
“For the time being, my mind is focused on trying to win this golf tournament.”
Maggert was the first to get to 7 under when he birdied No. 16, but he gave back the stroke with his lone bogey on No. 17 that left him pretty happy with only one with the TPC Southwind course playing tough.
“There’s probably 30, 40 guys still in the tournament,” said Maggert.