VIRGINIA WATER, England — Ludvig Aberg birdied No. 18 in fading light to take a share of the lead. Rory McIlroy did the same to almost certainly make the cut.
In a chaotic finish to the second round of the BMW PGA Championship, Aberg and McIlroy won their own personal battles down the storied par-5 last hole at Wentworth, where — for a while — nine balls were regularly in play as players backed up to complete their rounds in close-to-dark conditions.
Most of the light shining on the green came from the giant illuminated scoreboard as Aberg, the 23-year-old Swede tipped to be the next big thing in golf, rolled in a putt from 4 feet for a 6-under 66 to tie for the lead with compatriot Sebastian Soderberg (64) on 10 under par.
McIlroy then two-putted for birdie from 45 feet to finish off a round of 71 and move onto 1 under, which should see him make the weekend on the number. He will have to wait until Saturday morning to be sure, though.
A tournament containing all 12 members of Europe’s Ryder Cup team is set for an exciting conclusion, with Aberg — one of the most talked-about players heading to Rome — being chased by plenty of big names.
Tommy Fleetwood (66) was a shot back in a four-way tie for third place that included Adrian Meronk, the Pole who is using the pain of his Ryder Cup omission to underpin a run for the most prestigious title on the European tour.
Meronk still feels aggrieved at not being one of Luke Donald’s captain’s picks after winning three European tour events since last July. That makes him a big threat heading into the weekend.
“I am trying to turn that disappointment and anger into fuel,” said Meronk, who has a better score this week than 10 of Donald’s team.
“I definitely think it is wrong. I feel I’ve deserved it.”
Thomas Detry of Belgium (68) and Masahiro Kawamura of Japan (65) were also 9 under, while Sepp Straka — who will be a Ryder Cup rookie in Rome — shot 66 and was a stroke further back.
Then came Tyrrell Hatton (69) on 7 under and both Jon Rahm (67) and Matt Fitzpatrick (72) on 6 under. All are on the Ryder Cup team.
Rahm produced a fine recovery after dropping three shots in his first three holes, responding with an eagle from 12 feet at the par-5 fourth and then six birdies in his final 10 holes.
Aberg’s finish was pretty similar as he made five birdies in his final seven holes, including three straight from No. 16.
He only turned pro in June and has already won on the European tour, at the European Masters in Switzerland at the start of September, to help secure a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup. Now he could be taking a victory in the tour’s flagship event to the biggest team event in golf, further underlining his credentials as a star for the future, if not the present.
McIlroy, on the other hand, looked to be battling with his swing for much of the day and cut a frustrated figure in the final holes as Aberg, playing in the same group, piled up the birdies.
“I haven’t had my best over the last couple of days but I don’t feel like I’m too far away,” McIlroy said, “so hopefully I get an opportunity to play another couple of rounds here, and you know, try to finish the week off on a good, positive note.”