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Louisville (AFP) — World number one Rory McIlroy, American Steve Stricker, and fourth-ranked Henrik Stenson made early moves on leader Ryan Palmer in Friday’s rain-hit second round of the PGA Championship.

Sweden’s Stenson, seeking his first major title, reached six-under with a 30-foot birdie putt at the 13th.

British Open champion McIlroy, notorious for second-round struggles much of the year, joined him at six-under by bouncing back from a bogey at 12 with a 12-foot birdie putt at 13 and a 16-foot birdie putt at 15.

Back-nine starter Stricker was at six-under as well after making birdie putts on four of his first eight holes, the longest of them a 30-footer at the 17th.

But it was Palmer who birdied the ninth from four feet to grab a one-stroke lead at seven-under.

Heavy showers caused a 45-minute delay shortly after Palmer teed off in the opening group off the first tee, drenching the 7,458-yard course in the first wave of downpours expected to continue throughout the day.

Palmer opened with six pars before getting up and down from greenside rough at the par-5 seventh, the American sinking a four-foot putt to claim the lead alone at seven-under as he had Thursday on the exact same hole.

But just as he did on day one, Palmer dropped back level for the lead with a bogey at the par-3 eighth, finding a bunker off the tee.

This time, however, he answered immediately with a birdie and looked to stretch his margin on the back nine.

Britain’s Lee Westwood, seeking his first major title after eight top-three major finishes without one, and American Kevin Chappell, seeking his first tour-level title, were both set for afternoon starts after joining Palmer in the overnight lead after all three fired 65s Thursday.

Sweden’s fourth-ranked Stenson opened on the back nine with a birdie at the par-5 10th, stumbled with a bogey at 12 then responded with his long birdie effort to threaten.

Masters champion Bubba Watson was two-under after five holes and three-under for the tournament.

Tiger Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the all-time record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, was also set to tee off in the afternoon.

But after opening on 74 to share 109th, three strokes beyond the projected cut line, he was simply fighting to reach the final rounds.

Ben Crane, who opened on 74, withdrew due to back issues, the fourth American to pull out of the event. Sixth-ranked Matt Kuchar and past winner David Toms withdrew with back trouble before the start and defending champion Jason Dufner pulled out after 10 holes Thursday because of a neck injury.

AFP Photo/Andrew Redington

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