Poulter stays on course in PGA despite strong winds
At Kiawah Island
Ian Poulter's relatively uneventful season threatens to spring to life this weekend as the Englishman seeks the high US PGA Championship finish he needs to grab an automatic Ryder Cup place.
Currently two places outside the list of those certain to be on duty for Europe at Medinah next month, the 36-year-old Englishman's quest is firmly on course at the halfway stage of the final major of the year.
But after Poulter produced a typically tenacious display in the heavy coastal winds that swept the Ocean Course on the second day at Kiawah Island, he will be more concerned simply with landing his first major than retaining his Ryder Cup place.
He covered the treacherous inward half in 35 strokes and is just one shot behind the leading trio of Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Carl Pettersson.
England's Ian Poulter leads the British challenge at one behind the leading US PGA trio of Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods and Carl Pettersson. Photo: Getty
Apart from a third-placed finish at Bay Hill in the spring, the majors have provided the stages for Poulter's best golf in an otherwise unremarkable year.
The American-based Briton will relish a late start heading into the weekend here and also the prospect of contesting a major title with Woods who looks so much more composed on the billiard table-smooth Kiawah greens.
Despite missing for par from six feet at the last, the 14-time major champion otherwise putted brilliantly to put himself firmly in contention.
But if he is to end his four-year major drought, Woods will need to tighten his play from tee to green over the weekend because he cannot rely on holing out so reliably in the closing 36 holes.
Woods scrambled superbly to keep his challenge intact and his task now is to banish any ghosts that might remain after failing to capitalise on potentially winning positions at Olympic Club and Lytham where the last two majors were staged.
Rory McIlroy's frailty in a testing wind was again exposed in a disappointing second-round 75. He often lacks control because he cannot use his high ball flight to best effect.
This can be a big asset in calm conditions, but when heavy cross winds such as those that swept the South Carolina coastline come into play, the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland often struggles.
McIlroy loses his greatest strength, which lies in his long game, and this in turn exposes his fallibility around the greens. As well as only hitting half the fairways, he managed to successfully get up and down just four out of eight times in his second round.
Even so, he remains firmly in the mix in what promises to be a thoroughly absorbing sporting sideshow away from the climax of the Olympic Games.
For several big names, though, this was a miserable final round of major championship golf for the year.
Simon Dyson, Matteo Manassero, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Nick Watney and Jeff Overton were among those who failed to break 80 in the second round.
For Fowler it is an alarming loss of form. The young American has not registered a top-30 finish since the end of May.
US Ryder Cup skipper Davis Love will be looking for Fowler, who was so impressive in his debut at Celtic Manor two years ago, to bounce back in time for the announcement of his four wildcards on 4 September.