Steve Wheatcroft took a one-shot lead at the midway point of the Houston Open as world No.2 Rory McIlroy sneaked through on the cut mark.
Wheatcroft produced a second straight 67 to set 10 under overall, one shot ahead of fellow Americans Jason Kokrak and overnight leader DA Points – and nine up on McIlroy.
The Northern Irishman carded birdies at the 15th and 16th holes for a second-round 70 – a score that left him on one under and through to the final two rounds with nothing to spare.
McIlroy had been facing up to an early finish when he teed off at the 15th hole, but two timely birdies saw him make the cut.
He told www.pgatour.com: “As I said, no one likes missing cuts and especially when it’s my last one before the Masters.
“It’s nice to have another couple of rounds, do some work on the range this afternoon and hopefully improve on the course that I’ve already done.”
In fact, it will not be his last cut before the Masters – he subsequently, and with 30 minutes to spare before the deadline, entered next week’s Valero Texas Open in San Antonio.
It was Wheatcroft, though, who was the star of the day as a blemish-free round, built on much-improved driving, put him out ahead.
The 35-year-old has one tournament victory to his name on the second-tier Nationwide Tour, and has never been to The Masters.
Nevertheless, he was taking things in his stride.
“Who knows? I could shoot 61 tomorrow, I could shoot 71 tomorrow,” he said. “I really don’t know.
“I’m not going to sit around here and think about it too much.
“I’m going to think about the first tee ball on the first tee and we’ll go from there.”
Behind him were overnight leader Points, who carded 17 pars and one birdie in his 71, and Kokrak, whose only blemish was a double-bogey six at his eighth hole of the day, the 17th.
England’s Brian Davis remained in contention following a second bogey-free round – a 70 putting him in a share of fourth on seven under, alongside Stewart Cink.
Lee Westwood’s level-par round left him in a share of 18th on four under, one shot ahead of compatriot Greg Owen and two clear of Ross Fisher and David Lynn.
Defending champion Hunter Mahan missed the cut, as did Brandt Snedeker, Shane Lowry and Britons Martin Laird and Paul Casey.