Rory McIlroy shot a second-round five-under-par 66 to lie two off the lead in the Wells Fargo Championship at the Quail Hollow Club in North Carolina.
The Northern Irishman, twice a winner at the event, carded six birdies and a bogey to sit tied fifth on four under.
England's Matt Wallace, Patrick Rodgers and 2019 US Open winner Gary Woodland lead after round two on six under.
Open champion Shane Lowry made the cut on two over despite a disappointing 73 on Friday.
The Offaly man's round included three birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey.
Overnight leader Phil Mickelson slipped back with a four-over 75 leaving him at three under for the tournament.
McIlroy, 32, has dropped to 15th in the world rankings - his lowest position since 2009 - and 51st in the FedEx Cup standings.
Playing in his first tournament since missing the cut at the Masters, the four-time major winner - searching for his first victory since November 2019 - picked up three shots in four holes between the 14th and 17th having started his round on the back nine.
Further gains at the first and third followed, and while a bogey at the par-three fourth temporarily halted his momentum, he regrouped to birdie the par-four eighth.
Meanwhile, Darren Clarke shot a one-under 71 to grab a share of the lead at the Regions Tradition Champions Tour major event in Alabama.
Clarke, who opened his Champions Tour wins account by triumphing in Florida and Hawaii in November and January, carded two birdies and a bogey in Friday's second round.
The Northern Irishman has Alex Cejka, Jerry Kelly and US Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker for company at the top of the leaderboard on seven-under, with Ernie Els among the group one shot back.