Wells Fargo Championship: Phil Mickelson, Nick Watney share the lead

Tyler Lecka

Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney tried to give the 54-hole lead away to the other as each guy double-bogeyed down the stretch. Somehow, the two share the lead going into a rain-threatened final round at Quail Hollow.

Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney may share the lead heading into Sunday’s final round at Quail Hollow, but after late, head-scratching double-bogeys from each contender, the Wells Fargo Championship is anybody’s ballgame.

Mickelson, who began Saturday’s second round with a two-shot advantage, was all over the place, including knocking it out of bounds and clocking a fan in the noggin on his way to losing three strokes in the last four holes and finishing with a 1-over 73.

(Video via ESPN)

Watney, for his part, shanked his tee shot on the par-3 17th and carded his own double, limping into the clubhouse with a 71. The shot left him yelling sweet nothings into his flat-billed cap on the 18th green.

“I’m still a bit in shock about 17,” Watney, shaking his head in disbelief, told Golf Channel’s Steve Sands after his round, “but the big picture is I’m tied for the lead and that’s where you want to be going to Sunday.”

The duo, at 8-under for the week, will carry just a one-shot edge over George McNeill, and two over Lee Westwood and a handful of others into Sunday’s finale.

“It was some poor play coming down the stretch,” Mickelson told Sands after play that analyst Brandel Chamblee classified as worse than any round he’s ever witnessed from a tournament leader.

The co-leaders were not the only ones having all kinds of fun on Saturday. Rory McIlroy, who won the tourney in 2010 and came up short in a playoff last year, celebrated his 24th birthday by missing seven putts from some five feet and closer to fall to 5-under and a share of 10th place.

But back to Phil, who was 11-under after canning a 10-footer for birdie on No. 14. He then yanked his tee shot on the par-5 15th and tried to get to the green in two with the ball well below his feet down near the cart path.

“It was a mistake on my part not hitting the correct club, I think, the first time,” Mickelson said, ruing his decision to use a 3-wood instead of his driver on the shot in question.

Mickelson followed his OOB adventure on the 15th by clobbering a fan on No. 16 when he pulled a 183-yard approach shot into the gallery. Par for the course for Phil the Thrill, who so far this week has these amazing stats (courtesy Golf Channel):

  • Fairways hit: 18 of 42 (tied for 61st)
  • Greens in regulation: 31/54 (T68)
  • Proximity to hole: 48 feet, 1 inch (T72)

So how is Mickelson tied for the lead? His short game: Phil’s fifth in scrambling and first in putting, with 76 total putts over three rounds.

With heavy rains in the forecast, the guys will go out in threesomes starting at 6:45 a.m. ET on Sunday. Mickelson, Watney, and McNeil will bring up the rear in what could be a short day if the forecasts are correct.

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