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May 5 2013

8:33 AM

McIlroy needs putter to cooperate

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Caroline Wozniacki made sure a birthday cake was delivered to her boyfriend Rory McIlroy. The tennis star gave him a bracelet and a couple of pairs of shoes, as well.

Several friends gave the young Northern Irishman, who turned 24 on Saturday, a powerstation for his iPhone because he uses it so much the battery drains quickly. But the best present he may have gotten didn't come wrapped with a bow.

That's because until Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney reached the challenging Green Mile at Quail Hollow on Saturday, McIlroy appeared destined to start the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship, a tournament he won in 2010, a distant five strokes off the pace.

Instead, the two leaders struggled on the closing stretch -- Mickelson following a double bogey with a bogey at the 16th hole and Watney shanking his tee shot on the way to a double at the 17th. Both had reached double digits under par, but will start the final round a 8 under, instead.

"I think they may have given me a little bit of a birthday present right there," said McIlroy, who shot a disappointing 73 in the third round. "I'm only three back heading into (Sunday), and that's as good as I could ask for."

McIlroy, who lost in a playoff at Quail Hollow last year, has been flawless tee-to-green this week -- ranking first in driving accuracy and greens in regulation. He's struggled on the greens, though, taking 29, 31 and 33 putts, respectively.

"When I got on the greens it was a problem," McIlroy acknowledged. "I gave myself a lot of chances out there for birdies and even some short par putts from 4 or 5 feet. I just couldn't hole anything (Saturday). 

"I think when you miss a few putts on these greens, you sort of lose confidence in your stroke and then it's just sort of hard to commit fully to what you want to do. If I want to hole some putts tomorrow, I need to do a better job of that."

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