Phil Mickelson closed in on the lead Saturday at the Wells Fargo Championship with a 9-under 63, including a course-record 29 on the front side. Licking his wounds after a 75 on Friday which dropped him far back in the field, Mickelson struck early and often at the Quail Hollow Club, including a stretch where he went 7-under par in a span of six holes. He is 11-under for the tournament and two shots behind leader J.B Holmes as they head to the final round on Sunday in Charlotte, NC.
The man they call “Lefty” began his round innocently enough, making par on his first two holes. After that it was vintage “Phil the Thrill,” as he banged in four straight birdies and then an eagle on the par-5 seventh hole. For good measure he birdied No.8 and made the turn at 7-under. “It feels good because it’s been a rough year for me this year,” he told CBS’s Peter Kostis, “I haven’t been healthy early on and I haven’t put it together…and to have a good round today…this is a good start.” Because of his early tee-time, Mickelson had taken the lead and posted his total of 11-under just as the leaders were teeing off in their Saturday rounds.
After beginning the day two strokes out of the lead, Holmes had eight birdies and a bogey on his way to a 6-under 66 on Saturday. His lead is one shot over Martin Flores, who had a share of the lead at the Wells Fargo Championship after Friday’s play. Flores had a good day, shooting 69, and will be playing with Holmes in the final group on Sunday. Second round co-leader Angel Cabrera did not fare as well, carding a 75 and sitting in a tie for 11th place at 6-under.
If not for Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy would have been the tournament headline for the day at the Wells Fargo Championship. McIlroy was one of the first groups off of the first tee and went 32-33 for a 7-under 65, putting himself in contention at 6-under for the tournament.
On a day when he poured in seven birdies and an eagle, Mickelson’s best score might have been a par-4 at No. 18. After putting his drive against the lip of a bunker in the right rough, he had no choice but to lay up short on his second shot. Hitting a wedge from the short side of the green, Mickelson dropped his ball within a few feet of the pin and tapped in to save par. “It was a big momentum up-and-down,” he said, “to be able to salvage par and finish this round out strong was a good plus.”
On Sunday for the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship, Mickelson will attempt to close in even more, as he plays in the next-to-last group along with Kevin Kisner, who is in good position at 10-under. Jason Bohn and Justin Rose are another shot back and tied for fifth. Martin Kaymer is alone in seventh at eight under par.
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Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky