McIlroy leads PGA by a stroke; it seems like more

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PGA Championship
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McIlroy leads PGA by a stroke; it seems like more
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 09: Marc Warren of Scotland prepares to hit his tee shot on the 12th hole during the third round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 9, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 09: Marc Warren of Scotland hits his tee shot on the 12th hole during the third round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 9, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 09: Brooks Koepka of the United States hits his tee shot on the ninth hole during the third round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 9, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 09: Koumei Oda of Japan hits his tee shot on the ninth hole during the third round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 9, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 09: Kenny Perry of the United States smiles on the ninth hole during the third round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 9, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 09: Justin Rose of England hits his tee shot on the eighth hole during the third round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 9, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 8: The 18th hole flag during the Second Round of the 96th PGA Championship, at Valhalla Golf Club, on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America via Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 8: Tiger Woods of the United States hits a shot in the fairway on 18 during the Second Round of the 96th PGA Championship, at Valhalla Golf Club, on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America via Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 8: Tiger Woods of the United States and his caddie stand on 18 during the Second Round of the 96th PGA Championship, at Valhalla Golf Club, on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America via Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 8: Padraig Harrington of Ireland tees off on 18 during the Second Round of the 96th PGA Championship, at Valhalla Golf Club, on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Megan Blank/The PGA of America via Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Jason Day of Australia lines up a putt during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Tiger Woods of the United States and Phil Mickelson of the United States shake hands on the 18th green during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/PGA of America via Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa hits a bunker shot on the 17th green during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Phil Mickelson of the United States catches a golf ball the 18th green during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Tiger Woods of the United States and Phil Mickelson of the United States shake hands on the 18th green during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/PGA of America via Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Ian Poulter of England lines up a putt during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Jason Day of Australia pulls a club from his bag during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 8: Jason Day of Australia tees off on 18 during the Second Round of the 96th PGA Championship, at Valhalla Golf Club, on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Megan Blank/The PGA of America via Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 8: Rickie Fowler of the United States tees off on 19 during the Second Round of the 96th PGA Championship, at Valhalla Golf Club, on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America via Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 8: Tiger Woods of the United States gives an interview after his round during the Second Round of the 96th PGA Championship, at Valhalla Golf Club, on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America via Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 8: Tiger Woods of the United States tips his hat to the crowd after completing his round during the Second Round of the 96th PGA Championship, at Valhalla Golf Club, on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America via Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 09: Justin Rose of England hits his tee shot on the ninth hole during the third round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 9, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
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By Paul Newberry

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Rory McIlroy goes to the weekend of the PGA Championship with a one-stroke lead.

It seems bigger than that.

Such is the state of McIlroy's game.

"When I'm playing like this, it's obviously very enjoyable," he said after a 4-under 67 on Friday. "I can't wait to get back out on the course again (Saturday) and do the same thing all over again."

Jason Day and Jim Furyk are right on his heels, but the Aussie acknowledged that it will be tough for anyone to beat McIlroy.

"I'm clearly not the favorite," Day said. "This whole year he's been playing great. He looks confident. He's hitting the ball longer and straighter than pretty much everyone in the field. It's going to be tough to beat him."

Here are five things to watch for in the third round of the PGA Championship:

RORY'S QUEST: Tiger Woods was the No. 1 player in the world when he won the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla for his third straight major. McIlroy isn't that far along, though he does have a small slice of history at stake if he can win the Wanamaker Trophy. McIlroy is trying to become only the seventh player to win the last two majors of the year, and the first since Padraig Harrington in 2008. Woods did it twice. It would be McIlroy's fourth major. The only other players to have won four majors before age 26 were Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones, Willie Anderson and Young Tom Morris.

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Rory McIlroy
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McIlroy leads PGA by a stroke; it seems like more
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy watches his shot from the 15th tee during a practice round for the 2013 PGA Championship golf tournament at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York August 7, 2013. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT GOLF)
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy holds aloft the trophy after winning the Australian Open golf tournament at Royal Sydney Golf Club December 1, 2013. McIlroy buried his 2013 title drought in the most dramatic fashion at the Australian Open on Sunday and said he thought a largely frustrating season might just make him a more complete player.REUTERS/Steve Christo (AUSTRALIA - Tags: SPORT GOLF)
HOYLAKE, ENGLAND - JULY 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland lines up on the 5th green during the third round of The 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool on July 19, 2014 in Hoylake, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
HOYLAKE, ENGLAND - JULY 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks down the 6th hole during the third round of The 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool on July 19, 2014 in Hoylake, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
HOYLAKE, ENGLAND - JULY 19: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walks accross the tee on the first hole during the third round of The 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool on July 19, 2014 in Hoylake, England. (Photo by David Cannon/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)
HOYLAKE, ENGLAND - JULY 19: Jordan Spieth of the United States walks with an umbrella during the third round of The 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool on July 19, 2014 in Hoylake, England. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
HOYLAKE, ENGLAND - JULY 19: Sergio Garcia of Spain reacts on the 7th hole during the third round of The 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool on July 19, 2014 in Hoylake, England. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy (L) of Northern Ireland and Rickie Fowler of the U.S. stand on the forth green during the second round of the WGC-HSBC Champions golf tournament in Shanghai, China, November 6, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song
Sep 20, 2015; Lake Forest, IL, USA; PGA golfer Rory McIlroy walks off the 18th green moments after his final round of 2015 BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters Picture Supplied by Action Images *** Local Caption *** 2015-09-20T234539Z_1938160936_NOCID_RTRMADP_3_PGA-BMW-CHAMPIONSHIP-FINAL-ROUND.JPG
Oct 2, 2016; Chaska, MN, USA; Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his shot from the 14th tee during the single matches in 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters Picture Supplied by Action Images *** Local Caption *** 2016-10-02T192206Z_1194135088_NOCID_RTRMADP_3_PGA-RYDER-CUP.JPG
Oct 2, 2016; Chaska, MN, USA; Patrick Reed of the United States celebrates winning this match against Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland during the single matches in 41st Ryder Cup Hazeltine National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters Picture Supplied by Action Images *** Local Caption *** 2016-10-02T204047Z_2077220899_NOCID_RTRMADP_3_PGA-RYDER-CUP.JPG
Oct 1, 2016; Chaska, MN, USA; Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts to making a birdie on the tenth hole during the morning foursome matches in the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Rory McIlroy celebrates with the FedEx Cup trophy and the Tour Championship trophy after playing the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Golf - The 146th Open Championship - Royal Birkdale - Southport, Britain - July 20, 2017 Northern Ireland� Rory McIlroy stands on the 18th green during the first round REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Golf - European Tour - Alfred Dunhill Links Championship - St Andrews, Britain - October 5, 2017 Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy during the first round Action Images via Reuters/Craig Brough
Golf - European Tour - Alfred Dunhill Links Championship - St Andrews, Britain - October 5, 2017 Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, Gerry McIlroy, Branden Grace and Johann Rupert pose for a photo after finishing the first round Action Images via Reuters/Craig Brough
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YOUNG GUNS: Jason Day and Rickie Fowler are not yet among the best players to have never won a major. But they might be the best young players without one. And they keep giving themselves chances. Day won the Match Play Championship in February until a thumb injury derailed his year. The 26-year-old Aussie appears to be in form again after the low score of the second round, a 6-under 65 that put him in the final group. Day has been runner-up three times in a major, most recently at the U.S. Open last year. Fowler shot a 66 and was two shots behind McIlroy. He is no stranger to being in contention at the majors on the weekend. Fowler, 25, played in the final group at the last two majors and was runner-up in both. He is the first player since Woods in 2005 to finish in the top five at the first three majors of the year.

LEFTY'S SURGE: Phil Mickelson has been mired in his longest losing streak since 2003. But it looks as though he has found his game. Mickelson shot a blistering 62 in the final round at Firestone, and it has carried over to his best 36-hole start in a major since winning the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol. Mickelson opened with a 69 and eagled the final hole Friday for a 67. Lefty is looking for his first victory since capturing the 2013 British Open at Muirfield. Mickelson has several agendas this weekend, one of which includes locking up his spot on another Ryder Cup team. He already holds the record by qualifying nine times in a row, and he doesn't want captain Tom Watson to have to use a wild-card pick this time.

PART-TIME STRICKER: Steve Stricker will be an assistant captain for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. But first, he has to take care of some business at the final major of the year. The 47-year-old Stricker, who became a part-time player last year to spend more time with his family, still has plenty of game. He shot 68 Friday and was four strokes off the lead heading to the weekend. He has been a top-10 finisher in the majors 11 times, most notably a runner-up finish to Vijay Singh at the 1998 PGA Championship. He would be one of the oldest major champions in golf history if he comes through at Valhalla.

TIGER'S FUTURE: Tiger Woods won't be at Valhalla this weekend - he missed the cut at a major championship for only the fourth time in his professional career - but there are plenty of questions about his future. Woods shot back-to-back rounds of 74, leaving him a whopping five shots below the cut line. Woods said his ailing back flared up again, and he conceded that he needs to get stronger. It looks like he'll have plenty of time to work on his game. Unless he plays next week at Greensboro, North Carolina - which he's never done - his season is effectively over. Woods failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs, and there seems little chance he will be picked for the Ryder Cup by Watson. For Woods, the focus turns to 2015.

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