Steve Wheatcroft, a Monday qualifier for the Houston Open, had another 67 to take the lead among early starters Friday at Redstone Golf Club.
Far down the leaderboard was McIlroy, struggling to make the cut for the first time this year against a full field. He two-putted from 85 feet away on the fringe on the par-5 eighth hole and made par on his final hole for a 2-under 70. That put him at 1-under 143, which appeared to be safe for playing on the weekend.
Wheatcroft was at 10-under 134 and had a three-shot lead. The PGA Tour hasn't had a Monday qualifier win a tournament since Arjun Atwal in August 2010.