Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods play well at the Wells Fargo Championship but still aren’t pleased with their rounds
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A few putts finally dropped, the ball striking remained strong, and the first sub-par score of the week emerged.
Tiger Woods had yet to solve the quandary that has been the greens at Quail Hollow, but at least he could take some positives from the work he put in with his putting stroke and the continued good long game which resulted in hitting 15 of 18 greens in regulation.
Of course, that is not really how a golfer’s mind works. And he wasn’t alone. Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlory, both of whom shot good numbers, felt similarly.
Woods was annoyed with himself for three-putting the 18th green during the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship.
Thinking for a moment that he had holed his birdie putt, he raised his putter in triumph, only to see the ball skirt by the edge and run several feet past. When he missed that, too, Woods later feigned tossing the putter in a trash bin as he went to sign for a score he felt should have been much better than 68.
“I was so close to shooting about 7 under on that back nine,” Woods lamented after the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship.
And so it goes for golfers, who seemingly always believe that the score could have been lower.
Turns out a couple of Woods’ big-name peers who did better than he did on Saturday felt less than satisfied.
Phil Mickelson shot 64. Rory McIlroy had 66. Both, like Woods, began the day well back. They moved up the leaderboard — Mickelson is 10th, five behind leader Jason Day, while McIlroy is seven back and Woods is nine back — with excellent rounds but couldn’t shake the feeling that something remains amiss.
“Still don’t feel that comfortable with my game, to be honest,” said McIlroy, who celebrated his 29th birthday on Friday and then shot a 5-under-par 66 that included 7 birdies, including four in a row on the back nine. Of course, ending with a three-putt bogey didn’t help.
“I’m just not that comfortable with anything right now,” the four-time major champion said. “I’m trying really hard to hit it in the fairway and then trying really hard to get my irons on line. It’s all just a bit of a struggle. So trying to piece it together, but if I can do a little bit of practice this afternoon, hold it together tomorrow and then try and make some improvements before next week.”
McIlroy wasn’t ruling himself out at a run at winning his third title at Quail Hollow, but he knew the missed opportunity at the 18th didn’t help. Nor did the fact that there would be a good number of people between him and the lead.
Perhaps trying to get some confidence during Sunday’s round would be a benefit heading to the Players Championship.
And then there’s Mickelson, who is a perennial contender at Quail Hollow but has never won the tournament in 14 previous tries. He has seven top-5 finishes.
His 64 matches his lowest score since opening the 2016 Open with a 63 at Royal Troon (he shot 64 last year in the final round at the Greenbrier) and he did it without a bogey.
Tiger Woods had a three-hole stretch with consecutive birdies on the back nine on Saturday, including just missing an eagle putt.
“I just felt very unfocused the first two days,” said Mickelson, who opened with rounds of 72-72. “I didn’t feel like I was really committed to shots, I didn’t feel like I was really great. Today I felt way better on the range and I knew I was going to have a good day.”
Birdies at the fourth and seventh were followed by an eagle at the 10th, where, where Mickelson holed a 30-footer. He then added birdies at the 12th and 13th — failed to birdie the two easiest holes on the back, the 14th and 15th — and added another at the 17th.
That got him to 5 under par and within two shots of the lead but he didn’t expect to stay there because of conditions. Asked if he felt the course would remain soft, as it was when he played, Mickelson said, “It seems like it. I hope, not, but it seems like it.”
Mickelson was correct, as scoring remained relatively good throughout the afternoon. He stands five behind Day, who shot 67 and holds a two-shot advantage over Nick Watney.
The trio of Woods, McIlroy and Mickelson have combined for 23 major championships.
They were a combined 15 under on Saturday — and wondering why it wasn’t more.