Hideki Matsuyama produced a stunning birdie blitz to storm into a share of the lead as the second round of the PGA Championship was curtailed by adverse weather at Quail Hollow.
Man-of-the-moment Matsuyama emulated the brilliance of his final-round 61 which swept him to victory at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational as he birdied five of the last seven holes in a flawless 64 which was interrupted by a delay of one hour, 42 minutes due to a passing thunderstorm.
The Japanese ace’s awesome finish lifted him alongside early clubhouse leader Kevin Kisner at the top of the leaderboard on eight under, while 2016 champion Jason Day made a big move with an eagle and five birdies in a 66 which he completed just as darkness forced play to be suspended with 26 players still on the course.
But Rory McIlroy’s hopes of a third PGA crown took a hit when he dropped four shots in five holes before two late birdies salvaged a 72 which left him 10 shots off the pace, while Jordan Spieth is a further shot adrift after another frustrating day with the putter as he returned a 73.
Kisner shared the overnight lead with Thorbjorn Olesen after opening with a classy 67, and the American continued where he left off as he birdied two of his first three holes and responded to a bogey at 13 with another gain at 15.
The Dean & DeLuca Invitational winner put together a run of nine solid pars before opening up a four-shot lead over the field when he holed a 50-foot putt from well short of the seventh green for eagle, and two closing fours rounded off another 67.
But Kisner was reeled in by the red-hot Matsuyama late in the day as the world No 3 cruised to the turn in 33 before beginning his impressive march up the leaderboard at the 12th.
Pinpoint iron play set up three consecutive birdies and he made it four in a row at the long 15th and, after saving par from a greenside bunker at the next, he converted another sublime approach to seven feet at 17 before missing another good chance on the final green as he powered his 12-foot putt through the break.
Day was one over for the round before coming within inches of a spectacular albatross at the long seventh, and he followed the tap-in eagle with birdies at each of the next three holes before his sparkling run ended with a bogey at 11.
But the Australian bounced back as he drained a monster 50-foot putt for birdie at the 13th, and he picked up another shot at the next before shaving the hole from 12 feet on the final green illuminated by the giant scoreboard.
Matsuyama’s faultless 64 was equalled by Francesco Molinari, who covered the back nine in 32 and pitched in for eagle at the seventh before almost repeating the feat at the next, the Italian climbing 40 places to five under alongside Louis Oosthuizen (67) and Chris Stroud, who will have five holes to complete when play resumes on Saturday morning.
Course specialist Rickie Fowler added a steady two-birdie 70 to his opening 69 to close on three under along with potential Presidents Cup team-mate Justin Thomas (66) and leading British hope Paul Casey, who recovered from a poor start to reel off three straight birdies from the 14th to card a 70.
McIlroy completed his round before the players were removed from the course at 4:43pm local time, but the two-time champion put himself in danger of missing the cut for the second straight year when he followed a back-nine 35 with four bogeys in five holes from the second.
The world No 4 began an adventurous round with a miraculous par save at the first, and he scrambled hard to keep blemishes off his card while picking up a birdie at the long 15th to get to level par for the tournament.
But his luck ran out as he paid the price for a wayward day with the driver, sliding to four over with three to play before he comfortably avoided an early exit with crucial birdies at the seventh and eighth.
Spieth will also need something in the mid-60s on Saturday to revive his bid to become the youngest player in history to complete a career Grand Slam of majors as bogeys at the third and 10th, where it took him five shots just to hit the green, dropped him to three over par.
The Open champion holed from 12 feet for his first birdie of the day at the 12th, but he was unable to get up and down for par at the last after almost tugging his approach into the creek in the fading light and signed for a disappointing 73.
World No 1 Dustin Johnson, playing alongside Day, was three over for the day and two over for the week after a torrid run of three bogeys in four holes on the outward half, while Jon Rahm (75), Tommy Fleetwood (75) and Ian Poulter (71) were in the group with Spieth on three over.
But Justin Rose looks certain to have the weekend off after he bogeyed the last in a 72 to slide to six over, one outside the projected cut mark, while the man who edged him out at the Masters, Sergio Garcia, will definitely be packing his bags and heading home following a second 75.
Play will resume at 12:30pm (BST) on Saturday, with the third round expected to commence at around 3pm. The third-round will be played in groups of three, with all players teeing off at the first hole.
(c) Sky News 2017: PGA Championship: Hideki Matsuyama roars into share of second-round lead