CHARLOTTE, N.C. –– Just as he did a day prior, Angel Cabrera used a run of birdies to remain atop the leaderboard Friday at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Cabrera, who went for seven birdies in 10 holes in Thursday’s first round, made four in five holes on the back nine of his second round at Quail Hollow Club. A bogey at his closing hole, the par-4 ninth, left him with a 3-under 69.
At 9 under, Cabrera is not only tied for the 36-hole lead with Martin Flores, but will also play the weekend for just the third time in 10 starts this season.
Justin Rose is solo third at 8 under while Shawn Stefani and J.B. Holmes share fourth at 7 under. As for Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy, they followed solid first rounds with disappointing second rounds – Mickelson shot 3-over 75 to fall back to 3 under while McIlroy carded a 76 to make the cut on the number at 1 over.
Here are an additional 5 Things you need to know from Friday’s second-round action in Charlotte, N.C.:
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1. MR. CHILL: Martin Flores describes himself as a pretty level-headed guy. He rarely gets too excited. He tries to stay patient and enjoy the good things.
“I’m pretty chill, you know. . . . I don’t get too up or too down,” Flores said after shooting 4-under 68 to grab the early clubhouse lead Friday at Quail Hollow Club. At 9 under, he will enter Saturday tied for the 36-hole lead with Angel Cabrera.
Just how chill is Flores? After holing out a sand wedge from about 105 yards for eagle at the par-4 11th, Flores showed little excitement.
“I actually got made fun of because I didn’t give any reaction,” Flores said. “Brian Harmon, his caddy said, ‘Well, I guess I’ll go pick it up out of the hole,’ because I didn’t do anything. . . . I just started walking. I had my head down and I was thinking, that’s a nice shot, let’s go make it, and then all of the sudden I heard the cheers.”
A former college player at Oklahoma who turned pro in 2005, Flores is still searching for his first PGA Tour victory. He’s also looking for his first top 10 of the season, although he has notched four top-20 finishes in his last six starts.
The key to changing that, according to Flores, is continuing to be patient, trying not to be too perfect and not thinking too far ahead – “I’ve tried to refuse to think about winning,” he said.
His chill demeanor should help with that.
“I don’t know if it’s going to work in my favor,” Flores said, “but it’s just who I am.”
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2. PUTTING WOES FOR LEFTY: After needing just 26 putts during a first-round, 5-under 67 on Thursday, Phil Mickelson went cold with the putter on Friday.
Mickelson’s putting total ballooned to 34 as he struggled to a second-round 75.
“I can’t believe the difference in putting from yesterday to today,” Mickelson said. “Yesterday, I saw every ball go in the hole, and today, I couldn’t get them to fall and was three‑putting, which is funny because the greens today were so perfect.”
Mickelson’s putting woes were especially evident on a couple missed putts from inside of 5 feet, at Nos. 2 and 6.
“I don’t know what it was,” Mickelson said. “I couldn’t read them right. When I thought I hit a good putt, it broke, and when I played for break, it didn’t.”
Yet, at 2 under entering Saturday, Mickelson remains in contention as he tries for his first top 10 of the season. Mickelson hasn’t finished better than T-12 in 10 starts this season. His first-round 67 was his best round since an opening-round 66 at Pebble Beach, where he followed with 73-71-74 to end up in a tie for 19th.
“I’ll try to go out and make a run (Saturday),” Mickelson said. “I’m not that far back, and it wasn’t that far off. It’s not like I’ve got a lot of work to do. I just need to get a little more dialed in.”
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3. MORNING SHIFT FAVORABLE: Crunch numbers, scrutinize the stats, call in an army of sports psychologists. But if you want to know the difference between Geoff Ogilvy’s Thursday 72 and Friday 67, he’ll tell you it’s simple: It’s all about the tee time.
“Golf is usually easier in the morning than it is in the afternoon,” he said.
Sitting tied for 44th when he left the Quail Hollow Club Thursday evening, Ogilvy had a much better vantage point when he closed things out Friday morning, having pushed to 5 under 139, only four off the clubhouse lead.
But he emphasized that he hadn’t played that much better. In fact, “I probably hit the ball better (Thursday), strangely enough. I just made a few extra putts.”
Now it’s no secret that the game has been a grind the last year, year-and-a-half for Ogilvy. He failed to qualify for the Masters for a second straight year and he’s in danger of not being eligible for the Open Championship for the first time since 2004. The Aussie hasn’t finished inside the top 10 since being runner-up at the Honda Classic last March and he has seemingly turned bogeys into doubles and, truth be told, “I’ve been struggling with the putter for a long time.”
Friday, however, it looked like vintage Ogilvy, his two bogeys offset by seven birdies. Even better was the tone in Ogilvy’s voice, for he didn’t sound as if this had come out of nowhere; rather, it sounded as he was continuing solid stuff.
“I like how I’m playing,” he said. “I’ve liked how I’ve been playing for quite a while.”
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4. RORY’S ROUGH PATCH: It wasn’t the best start for Rory McIlroy Friday at Quail Hollow.
After an opening par, McIlroy bogeyed the par-3 second before back-to-back double bogeys at Nos. 3-4. His bogey at the second came after he three-putted the green. His double bogeys were a result of taking two unplayables – one at the par-4 third after his tee shot ended up under a tree and the other at the par-4 fourth after his approach shot missed left and long, finding trouble.
He was able to play his final 14 holes in 1 under as he finished with a second-round, 4-over 76. At 1 over, he made the cut on the number and is 10 shots off the lead entering the weekend.
“I felt like I gathered myself OK after that,” McIlroy said. “But I need to do a little bit of work, go to the putting green and do a little bit of work tonight, and come out (Saturday) morning and shoot a low score.”
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Sometimes, you have to hope and pray. Rickie Fowler conceded as much as he watched his drive travel left at the 18th hole, directly toward a creek. “I just prayed something good would happen,” Fowler said. Indeed, it did, a hard kick left over the creek and into the middle of the fairway. He made par, shot a bogey-free 71, and made the cut on the number, 1-over 145. . . . When the cut fell, 73 players got into weekend play. . . . Only three birdies were recorded at the par-3 17th, by de Jonge, Jason Bohn, and Davis Love III. Love, in fact, birdied both 16 and 17, holes that ranked third- and second-toughest, respectively. That, after he bogeyed the par-5 15th, which ranked second-easiest. . . . Charlie Beljan holed out from 183 yards to eagle the par-4 third. Not that it helped – he shot 76 and missed the cut at 6 over. . . . Derek Ernst, the defending champ, shot 68 and at 3 under is in a share of 17th. This after having missed the cut in five of his previous seven starts. “I don’t know what it is about this place,” Ernst said, shaking his head, though he clearly enjoys it. . . . Angel Cabrera has birdied seven of his eight par 5s.
– Jim McCabe contributed