CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Phil Mickelson is in the catbird seat, owning a two-shot lead entering today's third round of the Wells Fargo Championship.
He's got renewed confidence in his driver, and he leads the field in Strokes-gained putting. Not to mention, Mickelson practically owns Quail Hollow with seven finishes of 12th or better in nine starts here.
Mickelson, who stands 9 under, plays the third round with PGA TOUR rookie Scott Gardiner, who has missed his last eight cuts and says has surprised even himself with his solid performance in the first two rounds. Nick Watney and George McNeill are also at 7 under and play in the penultimate group.
Of course, three strokes off the pace is Rory McIlroy, who overtook Mickelson with a final-round 62 to win in 2010 and lost in a playoff last year. The birthday boy -- McIlroy turns 24 today -- should have a comfortable pairing for the third round with Lee Westwood, too.
The skies are overcast, the air is damp and Quail Hollow is there for the taking once again. What do you think will happen in today's third round? Use the comments section below to discuss.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Due to the threat of inclement weather on Sunday, officials at the Wells Fargo Championship have decided to move tee times up for the final round.
Players will be sent off Nos. 1 and 10 in threesomes from 6:45 a.m.-8:45 a.m. ET. The TV broadcast times will remain the same with the Golf Channel coverage from 1-2:30 p.m. and CBS taking over from 3 to 6 p.m. ET.
The PGA TOUR Network on SiriusXM will broadcast from 9 a.m. until the conclusion of play.
Sunday's forecast calls for a chance of morning showers that will become a steady rain during the afternoon. The chance of rain is 80 percent and the high will be in the low 60s.
The forecast for Monday isn't much better with morning showers and the threat of thunderstorms in the afternoon. The chance of precipitation on Monday is 70 percent.
Phil Mickelson had made all 31 of his putts inside of 10 feet this week. (Ehrmann/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- If Phil Mickelson goes on to win the Wells Fargo Championship, the adjustment he made to his alignment in the middle of the round on Friday may prove to be pivotal in what would be his 42nd PGA TOUR victory.
As he prepared to come to Quail Hollow, where he has six top-10 finishes in nine starts, including runner-up to Rory McIlroy in 2010, Mickelson said he was driving the ball "as long and as straight as I ever had." He felt like he started overswinging, though, hence the need to tweak things a tad.
"I was getting closed, and I had to hang back and flip it to get it online," Mickelson explained. "... It was just a fraction off. Opened up to get back square and I was able to rip at it."
The result? Mickelson hit three of his next six fairways -- which at first glance might not seem like much of a difference. But considering he'd only hit of eight of the preceeding 22, the number was significant, as was the confidence he gained.
"The first 27, 28 holes I have not driven the ball very well which is, most people would say, not surprising," Mickelson said. "But before I came here, I was driving the ball phenomenal. I really am excited about the way I've been hitting it off the tee, and I'm looking forward to this weekend."
Mickelson's putter has been extremely cooperative, too. He made a 14-footer for birdie at the first hole on Friday, then added a 15-footer at No. 2 and the tone for the day was set. He finished with a 67 that tied for the low round of the tournament and left him with a two-stroke lead at 9 under.
Mickelson leads the field in Strokes-Gained Putting and is also tied for first in distance of putts made. He has not missed a putt inside 10 feet in 31 attempts. The longest putt Mickelson has made is the 39-footer he drained at the ninth hole on Friday -- interestingly, his longest in the first round came at the same hole from 19 feet.
Mickelson said the greens, which suffered during an unusually long and unseasonably cold winter, are slower than normal this week so he has been able to be more aggressive.
"We're able to take some of the break out without fear of racing it way by," he reported. "And I've made a concerted effort to leave uphill putts which has allowed me to putt even more aggressive and play even less break, and that's made a big difference in my putting."
At the same time, Mickelson didn't feel he left anything on the course.
"I made a lot of putts that they weren't gimmes," Mickelson said. "They were 15 feet. I made a long one on 9. I got a lot out of the round today. I have to drive it better to be more aggressive to shoot lower this weekend because I'm getting as much out of the round as I can."
That's where the alignment change he made comes in so handy.
"I feel excited about the weekend because I know I'm going to drive it well this weekend," Mickelson said. "I know that I've been hitting it well, even though I haven't shown you the first 28 holes. And everything else feels pretty good, short game, chipping, putting, irons feel pretty good."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Yet another call from a television viewer prompted tournament officials to question Sergio Garcia about the manner in which he marked his ball prior to attempting a 4-footer for par at the 17th hole on Friday during the second round of the Wells Fargo Championship.
But after a consulation in the CBS production trailer with PGA TOUR rules gurus Mark Russell, Tyler Dennis and Robby Ware during which the video was replayed in slow-motion, the decision was made that no infraction occured and Garcia's round of 68 was in the books.
According to Garcia, the viewer thought the Spaniard had marked the ball on the side and then replaced it in front "which would mean that I gained about an inch or an inch and a half," he said.
Garcia said he actually marked it behind the ball but from the side so that he wouldn't step on Bill Haas' line behind him. "Then I put it straight up or straight down where I thought it was the same spot. I thought I put it as close as I could, obviously, with the coin still behind the ball.
"It looked like it might have moved a tiny bit, but the rules officials felt that obviously I didn't gain anything by it," Garcia said. "There are obviously a lot of times that you try to put it in exactly the same spot but it's difficult to do, not just for me, but for everyone. They thought that it was fine."
Garcia said his father Victor always told him that the game is bigger than any player or any tournament.
"And I said if you guys feel like I gained something by, obviously, moving it, I don't know how much, like a centimeter or couple centimeters, whatever it is, I'm fine with the two-stroke penalty," Garcia said. "I'd rather take the two-stroke penalty than come out here like I was a cheater.
"Obviously, they felt that wasn't the case. I told them exactly what I did, and they felt it was fine. That's pretty much it."
Garcia will start the third round 4 under for the tournament and five strokes off the lead.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Phil Mickelson, who has six top-10s in nine starts at the Wells Fargo Championship, including a runner-up finish in 2010, positioned himself for the stretch run with a 67 during Friday's second round at Quail Hollow.
Mickelson opened a two-stroke lead with the round of 5 under that matches the low of the tournament. PGA TOUR rookie Scott Gardiner also shot 67 and he is tied with George McNeill and Nick Watney, who played with Mickelson in the first two rounds, for second at 7 under.
McNeill moved up the leaderboard with a 68 on Friday while Watney had a 70.
Rory McIlroy, who won the 2010 Wells Fargo Championship and lost in a playoff last year, heads the group at 6 under that also includes Lee Westwood, Jason Kokrak, Derek Ernst and Rod Pampling, who was the last man in the field after Ben Crane withdrew Wednesday afternoon. Westwood had the best round of the bunch, shooting 68, while Pampling shot 69, Kokrak a 70 and McIlory and Ernst has 71s.
The cut was made a 2 over and included 84 players. Among those making early exits are Martin Laird, who won the Valero Texas Open earlier this year; former Masters champ Bubba Watson and three-time major champion Padraig Harrington.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Rod Pampling took a somewhat circuitous route to the Wells Fargo Championship.
He tried to Monday qualify, losing out in a six-man playoff after shooting 65. So Pampling headed to Athens where he planned to play in the Stadion Classic on the Web.com Tour.
Around lunchtime Wednesday, though, Pampling found out he was the first alternate at Quail Hollow. So he hopped in his car and headed to Charlotte -- just in case -- and before he made it to the Queen City, the Aussie got the phone call that he was in.
Pampling, who was the 10th alternate on Monday morning, replaced Ben Crane who withdrew after playing six holes of the pro-am Wednesday afternoon. He's taking advantage of the opportunity, too -- shooting a 69 on Friday that moved him into the top 10 at 6 under for the tournament.
"It was interesting early on," Pampling said. "I didn't hit it great, but I made a lot of really good putts out there which kept the round going. As the day warmed up, I sort of got into the round and started making some birdies and getting up near the lead."
Pampling, who lost his card when he finished 127th on the money list, is playing in just his seventh PGA TOUR event of the season. He started the day with a 16-foot birdie putt on the par-5 10th but promptly gave that back on the next. He birdied two of the three remaining par 5s, though, and added a 19-foot birdie putt on No. 18 for his second straight round of 3 under.
Interestingly, Pampling had played 24 previous rounds at Quail Hollow and only broke 70 once -- a 66 in the final round in 2008 when he tied for eighth. This week is his eighth Wells Fargo Championship but his first since 2010.
"It's certainly nice to be up in contention again," Pampling said.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Lee Westwood is battling a chest infection but you wouldn't know it from the way he played on Friday at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Westwood made six birdies and two bogeys on the way to a 68 that left him in a tie at 6 under, which was one shot off the lead held by Scott Gardiner when the morning wave finished the second round at Quail Hollow.
He said he wasn't sick enough to consider withdrawing, though -- not at a tournament where he tied for fifth a year ago. The occasional ailing green didn't scare him off, either.
"I like this golf course way too much," Westwood said. "It's a lot of money that we're playing for and a title at the end of the day. Somebody's going to say a speech and thank everybody and thank the greens keeper and Wells Fargo for putting up the cash at the end of the week, and somebody's going to be happy with the way the course is set up."
And the way Westwood see it, that somebody might as well be him. The Englishman, who turned 40 last week -- "We had a good party from what I can remember and people keep telling me," he reported, has posted top-10s in his last two starts, including a tie for eighth at the Masters.
Friday's round brought more of the same steady play. He hit nine fairways and 15 greens in regulation, using a total of 28 putts. Westwood's entire group played well, in fact -- Lucas Glover shot 71 and stands 5 under while Zach Johnson is 4 under after a 72.
"Certainly helps when everybody in the group is playing well," Westwood said. "You're seeing good shots all the time, and you get the feeling that the course is giving up birdies and isn't playing quite as hard as it might be."
The 68 marked the third time Westwood had broken 70 at Quail Hollow in his last four rounds. His 12 previous had all been 71 or higher so the Englishman appears to have figured things out.
"I guess you get rewarded for hitting it straight and penalized for missing it off line," he said with a shrug "Normally the greens are very firm. You have to think your way around and position the ball. This week you can be a little more aggressive because it is softer."
When he finished, though, the ailing Westwood was only looking for a soft mattress or plush couch.
"I just won't do too much practice this afternoon," he said. "I'll just go back to the room and lie down, really."