Perez leads as McIlroy crashes out

American Pat Perez is the new leader of the Wells Fargo Championship after posting a second round 65.

American Pat Perez is the new leader of the Wells Fargo Championship after posting a stunning second round 65 at the Quail Hollow Club.

But among those missing the cut, set at even-par, was the defending champion, Rory McIlroy, who shot a 72 for 147.

The Northern Ireland young gun claimed his first and, so far, only US Tour title at Quail Hollow last year with a sensational final-round of 62.

“Yesterday (Thursday) I struggled with my ball-striking,” said a disappointed McIlroy, who turned 22 this week.

“Today (Friday) I actually hit it a bit better today. Gave myself a lot of opportunities, but just wasn’t able to take them.”

Perez, in the meantime, began the day in a tie for third place, but a blistering run of five birdies on the last six holes of the course’s dangerous ‘Green Mile’ stretch moved him to 12-under for the tournament and put him two strokes clear of Bill Haas and Jonathan Byrd.

The 35-year-old got off to a bad start with a bogey at the par-five first, but he responded with a birdie at the short second and picked up two more shots before the turn.

Another birdie on the long 10th was promptly nullified by a dropped a shot at his next hole, but a sparkling charge on the closing stretch edged him clear of his rivals.

Overall he posted nine birdies and two bogeys for a 12-under-par total of 132 at the halfway mark.

Overnight leader Haas could only add a 70 to his opening 64, mixing up three birdies with a bogey at the 17th, while Byrd posted a 68 to tie him in second place.

Lurking another stroke back at 135 were four-times major champion Phil Mickelson (66), and 2009 US Open winner Lucas Glover, who registered a 68 after bogeys at 16 and 17.

Rain and lightning interrupted play for nearly 90 minutes in the morning, but Perez, whose only previous US PGA Tour win came at the 2009 Bob Hope Classic, thrived on the soft, damp course.

“I’ve been playing great the last month,” said Perez, who can look back at a tie for fifth at the Texas Open and for sixth at The Heritage.

“This week I guess I just made some more putts, and the confidence is just getting more and more each day I play.”

Perez and Mickelson muscled their way in amongst a trio of rivals with strong local connections and gallery support.

Haas, was born in Charlotte, attended nearby Wake Forest University and his father, professional golfer Jay Haas, who is currently playing in a Champions Tour event, is a Quail Hollow member.

Byrd and the Glover both attended Clemson University about 100 miles away.

“Outside of the majors, this would be my number one tournament to win,” Haas told the media. “When I walk in the clubhouse, everybody I see I know.”

Tied for sixth on eight-under-par 136, four strokes behind Perez, were American Stewart Cink (65), the 2005 Quail Hollow winner Vijay Singh of Fiji (68) and Sweden’s American-reared Carl Pettersson (68), who went to college at North Carolina State.