It's another ugly day in Charlotte, but several big names populate the top of the leaderboard at the 2013 Wells Fargo Championship. Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood are currently tied for the lead at 8-under as the final pairings hit the back nine at Quail Hollow.
The PGA Tour made the early decision to push all tee times up to Sunday morning, sending the players off in threesomes on split tees as they hustle to wrap things up on the weekend. The rains have not been heavy enough to suspend play, but the conditions are nasty, particularly for North Carolina in May. The wind chill is currently sitting in the low-to-mid 40s, and the greens were already in rough shape at the start of the week. The persistent rain on Sunday certainly won't help the condition of the putting surfaces, but right now the Tour is letting them play on. ESPN's Bob Harig noted the conundrum that rules officials are facing on Sunday:
Tournament in dicey position with so much bad weather expected. If more than halfof field finishes (37), must complete the round.— Bob Harig (@BobHarig) May 5, 2013
And if they are unable to do so today, tomorrow looks bleak. Then what?— Bob Harig (@BobHarig) May 5, 2013
If half don't finish, they could -- stress could -- revert to 54 hole standings, in which case Phil, Watney would play off. #WellsFargo— Bob Harig (@BobHarig) May 5, 2013
The Tour was blasted by some players and media earlier this season when they held to the original Sunday schedule at Bay Hill. As forecasted, severe storms hit the Orlando area on Sunday and the final groups were forced to play most of their round on Monday. This week adds another chapter to what has been one of the most wild weather seasons on Tour, with multiple Monday, and even Tuesday finishes thanks to high winds, snow, and constant threat of thunderstorms. It seems the criticism from Bay Hill was heard, as this is the second straight week the Tour has aggressively moved up tee times to avoid the Monday finish.
So far, the big Sunday mover is Westwood, who is 2-under through his first 11 holes to jump into a tie for first place. The conditions are comparable to British Open weather, and the Englishman seems to be thriving as he goes for his first win of the season. Mickelson is two holes behind him, but holding on at even-par through his first nine. Phil, along with Nick Watney, were on their way to a multi-shot 54-hole lead, but the two-horse race quickly turned as they both blew up coming into the house on Saturday.
Watney and Phil coming back to the field opened things up for several players on Sunday, including Rory McIlroy. The No. 2 player in the world was one shot off the pace through his front nine, but his final round charge took a hit when he carded a double bogey on No. 12. He backed that up with another bogey to fall all the way to 4-under, ending his shot at contention. Watney has also dropped two shots and is back at 6-under. Charles Howell III, Ryan Moore, and Robert Karlsson are all T2 at 7-under. Howell has been especially quiet through the first three rounds, but now he's making a late run with the potentially low-round of the day. He only has three holes left to add to his number, however, with the leaders still having the entire back nine to play.
But with these conditions, that number may not move much from 8-under, and Mickelson is always susceptible to the blow-up stretch. Here's a snapshot of the leaderboard (along with some notables) at the midpoint of the final round:
|-7||Charles Howell III||16|