CHARLOTTE -- Phil Mickelson came to North Carolina looking for what would have been his first top-10 finish of the 2013-2014 PGA TOUR wrap-around season.
And he left without one -- despite starting the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship a mere two strokes off the lead.
Mickelson, who has seven top-10 finishes at Quail Hollow in 10 appearances there, had played himself into prime position once again with a red-hot 63 on Saturday. He was 11 under and nipping at J.B. Holmes' heels.
Mickelson struggled mightily on Sunday, though, posting a 76 that was his highest score in 44 rounds at Quail Hollow, a course he ranks among his all-time favorites. He ended up in a tie for 11th but Mickelson saw the glass half full, as is his custom.
"Even though I didn't play well today, I didn't play well Friday (shooting 75), I had two great rounds and it's kind of a good start for me to get me back on the right track," Mickelson said.
The popular lefthander started solidly enough, grinding out seven straight pars, despite hitting just one fairway on the front nine. He missed the green left at the tempting par-4 eighth, which was playing to 342 yards, then chipped long to the fringe and missed a 3-footer to save par.
Things got worse on the back nine. Not only did Mickelson fail to take advantage of either par 5, he doubled bogeyed the 16th hole when he took four to get down from the fringe -- officially three-putting from 5 feet, 9 inches.
Mickelson made another bogey at the par-3 17th, hitting his tee shot into the fans sitting on the bank to the right of the green. He chipped to the fringe, then chipped again to 2 feet and made the putt on the way to a back-nine 39.
"I hit the ball well today, I just struggled on the greens," Mickelson said. "It was a great test today, the swirling winds made for a great challenge and as always there is always somebody that comes up with a low round from the middle of the pack, and it was an exciting day."
Even so, the tie for 11th was Mickelson's best of the season. He'll be at TPC Sawgrass next week competing in THE PLAYERS Championship, a tournament he won in 2007.
"I'll use this as a steppingstone," Mickelson said. "I've felt good and healthy all week, have for a couple of months now and I hit a lot of good shots this week. I'll see Dave Stockton tomorrow and see if I can get this putter a little more consistent, because I had two great putting days and then I had just two horrific ones."
The next time Mickelson competes in North Carolina will be next month at Pinehurst No. 2 where he will try to complete the career Grand Slam at the U.S. Open. Mickelson finished second to Payne Stewart in 1999 on the Donald Ross gem -- the first of his six runner-up finishes at the national championship.