Phil Mickelson’s best round of the year wasn’t enough for him to stay in the lead Saturday in the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C., just enough to give him a chance to end his slowest start to a season in 11 years.
J.B. Holmes overpowered Quail Hollow, and he made a 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the final hole for a 6-under 66. That wound up giving him a 1-shot lead when Martin Flores made his only bogey on the final hole. Mickelson had a 63 and was 2 shots behind.
Flores hit his tee shot into the creek left of the 18th fairway and missed a 20-foot par putt, settling for a 69 that at least put him in the final pairing with Holmes.
They’ll be looking at Mickelson, who filled the course with one big cheer after another. Mickelson rolled in birdie putts of 30 feet on No. 4 and 40 feet on the par-3 sixth hole and went out in 29. He took the outright lead with a 7-iron from 216 yards into 10 feet on the 13th hole and closed with a par as exciting as some of his birdies. After having to lay up out of a fairway bunker, his wedge spun by the hole and left him a tap-in for par.
Not since 2003 has Mickelson gone this deep into the season without a victory. This year has been so difficult, mainly through injuries, that he doesn’t even have a top 10.
Holmes only last week secured his card for the rest of the year through a medical extension from ankle surgery last year. He hasn’t won since the Phoenix Open in 2008, though he can be scary when he’s finding fairways with his enormous length. He birdied all the par 5s and only dropped 1 shot.
Holmes was at 13-under 203.
Rory McIlroy set the pace early for a day of low scoring with a 65 that brought back memories of 2010, when he made the cut on the number and went 66-62 to win for the first time on the PGA Tour. He was 4 shots behind that year going into today.
McIlroy goes into the last round 7 shots behind.
Stacy Lewis shot a 2-under 69 even while missing several makable putts to grab a share of the lead with Meena Lee after three rounds at the North Texas LPGA Shootout in Irving.
Lewis, the third-ranked player in the world, looked down in frustration after missing a birdie chance at the 18th hole. The Texan matched Lee at 9-under 204.
In nearly ideal scoring conditions with little if any wind, Lee shot 70.
Suzann Pettersen, Dori Carter and Julieta Granada shot 68 and were a stroke behind the leaders.
Cristie Kerr (69), Christina Kim (70) and Natalie Gulbis (71) were among seven players tied at 7 under and only 2 strokes off the lead. Also in that group was 22-year-old Jennifer Johnson, who had an opening bogey before shooting a 65 for the best round of the day at Las Colinas Country Club.
Lewis is an eight-time winner, but has had six runner-up finishes in 18 starts since winning the Women’s British Open in August. She has been sixth or better in seven of eight tournaments this season, including another runner-up finish in San Francisco last week.
Bernhard Langer shot a 4-under 68 to open a 3-stroke lead in the Champions Tour’s Insperity Invitational in the Woodlands, Texas.
Langer had a 10-under 134 total at the Woodlands Country Club.
The 56-year-old German player won the 2007 event at Augusta Pines and successfully defended his title in 2008 at The Woodlands. He won the season-opening event in Hawaii for his 19th Champions Tour title.
Colin Montgomerie was second after a 66, the best round of the day.
Defending champion Esteban Toledo, Gary Hallberg and Bart Bryant were 4 strokes back. Hallberg had a 67, Toledo shot 71, and Bryant — tied for the first-round lead with Langer — had a 72.
Denmark’s Anders Hansen shot a 5-under 67 for a share of the lead with Thailand’s Panuphol Pittayarat in the Championship at Laguna National in Singapore.
Hansen, playing his fourth event since returning from wrist injury, matched Pittayarat (69) at 16-under 200. American David Lipsky (70) and Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen (67) were 2 strokes back.