Rory McIlroy shot a five-under-66 second round to twice lead the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in North Carolina.
The two-time winner of the event, the Northern Irishman carded six birdies and a bogey to sit tied for fifth on four under.
England’s Matt Wallace, Patrick Rodgers and 2019 US Open winner Gary Woodland lead after the second round on six under.
Open champion Shane Lowry made the cut on two more despite a disappointing 73 Friday.
The Offaly man’s round featured three birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey.
Leader of the day Phil Mickelson fell back with a four of 75, leaving him three under for the tournament.
McIlroy, 32, fell to 15th place in the world rankings – his lowest position since 2009 – and to 51st place in the FedEx Cup rankings.
Playing in his first tournament since missing the Masters Cup, the four-time major winner – looking for his first win since November 2019 – tallied three shots in four holes between the 14th and 17th after starting his round on the last nine.
Further wins in the first and third followed, and while a bogey in the par-three fourth temporarily interrupted his momentum, he regrouped to birdie the eighth by four.
Meanwhile, Darren Clarke shot an under-71 to take a lead share at the major Regions Tradition Champions Tour event in Alabama.
Clarke, who opened his Champions Tour account by triumphing in Florida and Hawaii in November and January, carded two birdies and a bogey in Friday’s second round.
The Northern Irishman has Alex Cejka, Jerry Kelly and US Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker for the company leading the table with seven under, with Ernie Els among the group one shot back.