SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — Coming into the PGA Championship, William McGirt knew the stakes.
In his prior three appearances in a major championship — including two this season — the Fairmont native had missed the cut each time.
On Friday, McGirt got over the hump, carding a bogey-free, 3-under-par 67 at Baltusrol Golf Club to advance to the weekend of a major championship for the first time in his six seasons on the PGA Tour.
“More than anything, it’s proving to yourself that you can do,” McGirt told The Robesonian. “It’s just like winning, you have to do it to prove it to yourself that you can do it.”
He now enters the weekend six strokes back of Jimmy Walker and Robert Streb, who sit at 9 under. Streb matched a maj0r-championship record with a 63 in the second round.
Early morning showers softened Batusrol’s Lower Course and McGirt took full advantage, showing exceptional ball-striking ability as he hit 12 fairways and 15 greens in regulation en route to earning a tie for 13th heading into the weekend.
“I hit it solid all day,” he said. “I gave myself a bunch of looks — it’s what you have to do out here. (It was) just a really solid round.”
Making the turn at 2 under, after birdies on Nos. 2 and 9, McGirt was steady the rest of the way heading into the par-5 18th. On the final hole, he capped his round with a stellar bunker shot that set up a short birdie putt, which he rolled in the cup to finish the day at 3 under.
Now, McGirt hopes he can continue improving with the putter as the battle for the Wanamaker Trophy heats up.
“I’m still fighting the putter from the British (Open),” he said. “The greens were so slow over there. All in all everything feels pretty good. If I can get the putter a little better it’ll be great.”
Though he sits a few shots back of the leaders, McGirt said he doesn’t mind playing catch-up.
“I just need to keep doing what I’m doing,” he said. “I’d rather be a couple of shots back. When you have everybody chasing you it’s a little tougher. I’d rather be chasing somebody else (as I’m) trying to move forward.”
Emiliano Grillo shot a 67 and defending champion Jason Day had a 65 to finish at 7 under. Day had a stretch with seven birdies in a 8-hole span. British Open champion Henrik Stenson was at 6 under after a second straight 67. Jordan Spieth joined McGirt at 3 under for the tournament.
McGirt tees off at 1:45 p.m. today with Daniel Summerhays.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.