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Xander Schauffele shoots 67, leads by 4 over Rory McIlroy, Jason Day at Wells Fargo Championship

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Xander Schauffele has been a mainstay near the top of the leaderboard most of the year. Now he’s hoping to close the door.

Schauffele shot a 4-under 67 on Friday after opening with a 64, leaving him at 11-under 131 and four shots ahead of Rory McIlroy and Jason Day heading into the weekend at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Taylor Moore and Sungjae Im were five strokes back at 6 under.

The 30-year-old Schauffele has seven top 10 finishes this season, but no wins. He’s looking to snap a winless streak that dates to July 2022 at the Genesis Scottish Open.

“I’ve had a few knocks on the door and I just tell myself to keep knocking,” Schauffele said.

Schauffele said the drought is something he’s always thinking about, but added that the toughest part is just to stay in the present.

“You just have to recognize the situation you are in, and realize that you are playing some good golf and just get out of your own way at times,” Schauffele said.

Schauffele’s was locked in most of the day.

He hit 15 greens and his only hiccup came when he made bogey on the 18th hole while he was trying to rush to finish his round and beat a storm that would suspend play for about an hour. Play eventually did resume, but Schauffele feared he would have to get up early to play a shot or two and then wait several hours to play his third round on Saturday.

“It’s stupid to say, but I’d rather take the 5 at this point after hitting such a bad chip versus waking up super early and having to reset your day,” Schauffele said. “It’s all good.”

McIlroy entered the day three shots behind Schauffele, but managed to lose ground despite not making a bogey. McIlroy finished with a 68. He had several opportunities to put the pressure on Schauffele, but missed a few makeable putts.

Still, the star from Northern Ireland walked away feeling good about his play.

“Felt like I probably could have squeezed a couple more out of the round, but anytime you can go around this golf course bogey free it’s always going to be a decent day,” said McIlroy, who teamed with Shane Lowry to win the Zurich Classic two weeks ago.

The world’s No. 2-ranked player has had some spectacular weekend performances before at Quail Hollow, including a club-record 61 in 2015. He closed with a 62 in 2010 to win his first PGA Tour title.

He said he will lean on those as he sets his sights on catching Schauffele.

“Anytime you’re playing a golf course where you’ve shot some really low scores, you know that it’s out there,” McIlroy said. “The golf course is playing a lot differently this week than it played in 2010 and 2015, but I know if I get it going around here I can make some birdies and chase him down.”

McIlroy is the only three-time winner of the event, and said the course simply suits his game well because it allows him to take advantage of his distance off the tee.

“I’ve had so many good memories here, I just feel positive vibes,” McIlroy said. “I feel good about myself when I’m walking around here.”

Day also had a 67. The Australian has struggled of late, with only one top-25 finish in his last six events.

“I’ve had a run over the last month and a half, two months where it’s just been kind of poor play, poor hitting,” Day said. “I’ve been losing a ton of strokes to the field approach to green, not necessarily on the driver. It’s weird, it’s kind of strange to drive it decently well and to hit it poor coming into the greens.”

Max Homa, the only player other than McIlroy with multiple wins at the Wells Fargo Championship, was eight shots behind after a 70. Justin Thomas also was 3 under after a 71.

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

By STEVE REED
AP Sports Writer

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