5 Things: Mickelson, Watney lead in Charlotte

Nick Watney watches his tee shot on the 15th hole during the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship.

Nick Watney watches his tee shot on the 15th hole during the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship.

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7:58:01 PM ET. 04/17/2014




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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A shank and an O.B. ball. We saw both of those on the back nine Saturday at the Wells Fargo Championship, and they came from the co-leaders. Nick Watney and Phil Mickelson are tied at 8-under 208 after the third round at Quail Hollow Club. Here are 5 Things you need to know from the third round:

• • •

1. SHANK: Nick Watney had been fighting his swing all day, but he lost the struggle on the 17th tee, where he hit a shank well right of the green.

“I haven’t done that (hit a shank) for a really long time,” Watney said. “I can’t remember the last time I did that in a tournament, so it was a bit unsettling.” Watney left his 78-yard second shot on the par 3 some 60 feet short of the hole, then three-putted. “There were a lot of things going on in my head, and you’re staring at a lake. It was just a disaster of a hole, and I’m glad it’s over.”

Watney and Mickelson dueled at the 2009 WGC-Cadillac Championship, where they were tied entering the final round before Mickelson pulled out the one-shot victory. Mickelson shot 69 while battling a stomach virus, edging Watney after his 30-foot birdie putt on the final hole stopped just short.

“He’s probably the second-best player of my generation,” Watney said. “I’ll get excited. It would be a lot of fun to come out on top this time.”

• • •

2. OUT OF THE FOREST: Mickelson had an eventful day on the par 5s. First, there was the fifth hole, where his second shot from the trees traveled just 66 yards after hitting branches. His third shot from approximately 170 yards, with the ball sitting on pine straw, came to rest 5 feet from the hole, and he made the birdie putt, saying to his caddie, Jim Mackay, “That’s 4 the hard way.” He wasn’t as fortunate when on the 15th hole. Mickelson tried to cut a 3-wood around a tree, but the ball didn’t fade and went out of bounds. His second attempt found the fairway, but he couldn’t get up-and-down and made double bogey on the par 5.

“After I made the putt on 14, I felt really good,” Mickelson said. “I thought I could get one on 15. I got lucky on the tee shot that that didn’t go out of bounds, but the second shot should not have been a problem.”

It was. Mickelson also bogeyed the next hole to shoot a back-nine 38 and finish with a 73.

• • •

3. RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY: The field will get off to an early start Sunday. When it finishes has yet to be determined. The final-round forecast is ominous, which is why Sunday’s tee times will run from 6:45 to 8:46 a.m. There’s a 50 percent chance of rain throughout the morning, and it increases in the afternoon.

“The later it gets, the worse it is,” Mark Russell, the PGA Tour’s vice president of rules and competitions, said about the forecast. “It’s not very good for Monday, either.”

George McNeill, who’s in third place, said the final round will feel “kind of like a British Open versus a Wells Fargo.” Players already were looking at Saturday’s finish as potentially the end of the tournament, which is why the leaders were rueing their late-afternoon mistakes.

“I was grinding it out coming down the stretch because there is a high likelihood that we don’t play tomorrow,” Mickelson said.

Watney said players were preparing for a “significant” amount of rain. “Some of the greens ... there’s not a lot of grass on them, so I don’t know how they’ll hold up. I think it will be interesting to see how long we go if it ... the rain comes like they say.”

• • •

4. SURPRISE!: McNeill will be the third member of the final group. He made bogey at the 18th hole to finish at 7 under, one behind Mickelson and Watney. McNeill, 37, has won twice on the PGA Tour, most recently at last year’s Puerto Rico Open. He has made the cut in eight of nine starts this year, but also hasn’t finished better than 30th in a full-field event.

“Phil looked like he was kind of moving ahead of everyone,” McNeill said. “Then Nick with the shot that he hit on 17, that actually shook me up probably more than it shook him up.

“I didn’t even know (I was leading) until I was standing on 18 green.” The lead didn't last long. He bogeyed the 18th and will start the final round one shot back.

• • •

5. SHORT SHOTS: John Senden, Ryan Moore, Robert Karlsson, David Lynn, Derek Ernst and Lee Westwood are tied for fourth at 6 under par. ... Scott Gardiner, who accompanied Phil Mickelson in Saturday’s final group, shot 76 to drop from second place to 20th. He was even par for the day until three-putting Nos. 8 and 9, including a missed 1-foot putt at No. 9 that led to double bogey. ... D.A. Points, who lost a playoff here last year, is tied for 10th after shooting 71-69-71. Points has a win at the Shell Houston Open and a runner-up at last week’s Zurich Classic among his past four starts. ... Monday qualifier Nate Smith was 5 under for the tournament until making bogey on his final seven holes Saturday. He’d be tied for 10th if he had finished at 5 under. Instead, he’s T-59 at 2 over.

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