Sun, May 06, 2012 - Page 19 News List

Nick Watney takes lead as Tiger Woods heads home

AP, CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

Nick Watney answered what he referred to as a wake-up call by shooting an eight-under 64 on Friday and taking a one-stroke lead at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Tiger Woods might need an alarm of his own after missing the cut.

Watney had gone nine straight rounds on the PGA Tour without breaking 70 and had failed to crack the top 10 in all nine of his stroke-play tournaments this year. He worked hard to change that, and it paid off on Friday as he took a one-shot advantage over Webb Simpson going into the weekend.

A two-time winner last year, Watney had failed to crack the top 30 in a full-field event this year, and missed the cut in New Orleans for his first weekend off at a tournament since July last year.

“Last week was a wake-up call for me,” Watney said. “And I’ve worked really hard these five days leading into this event. I think it just shows I’m making progress. Who knows what’s going to happen this weekend, but I’m really excited for it. More hard work, and hopefully I’ll be in this position a lot more.”

Woods wound up in rare position. He failed to make a birdie on any of the par fives or any hole on his back nine, missing a 4 foot birdie putt on his 17th hole with the cut on the line. Woods wound up with a 73 — his eighth consecutive round in the 70s — for an even-par 144 to miss the cut by one shot.

It was only the eighth time in 267 events on the PGA Tour that Woods missed the cut, and the first time it happened at the same place twice — Quail Hollow, where in four trips before the downfall in his personal life Woods had won once and never finished worse than 11th.

“This is one of my favorite tour stops, and unfortunately, I’m just not going to be around for the last two days,” Woods said.

Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood narrowly avoided joining him.

Mickelson was right on the cut line and facing a scary finish on the par-three 17th over water and the par-four 18th, with a stream running down the left side and trees and trouble on the right. He played both holes perfectly for pars, though his 72 left him 11 shots out of the lead.

He could not believe how much the course had changed from on Thursday morning, especially with the swirling wind that made the course nearly tough enough to let Woods back into the tournament. Woods was tied for 85th when he finished. At one point, he was tied for 72nd.

Seventy-four players made the cut at one-under 143, the first time in the 10-year history at Quail Hollow the cut was under par.

“I haven’t seen as big a change since like Shinnecock ‘95, where it was a whole different course,” Mickelson said, referring to the US Open. “So I played well today. I didn’t get the ball in the hole as well as I would have liked, but I hit a lot of good putts that caught the lip, I hit a lot of putts that just didn’t go in and I hit a lot of good shots that just didn’t quite go my way today.”

Westwood was outside the cut line until he holed an 18-foot birdie on the 17th and made par on No. 18 for a 72. He was to play with Mickelson yesterday.

Watney was at 12-under 132 and will play in the final group with Simpson, who had a 68. Watney is staying with Simpson, who lives about 1.5km from the course.

One side benefit from his 64 was that he has a bet with his host that high score takes out the -garbage each day.

Stewart Cink, winless since he captured the British Open at Turnberry in 2009, had a 69 and joined Ben Crane (64), John Senden (68) and D.A. Points (68) two shots out of the lead. Ryan Moore had a penalty stroke for his ball moving on a tap-in and had to settle for a 70. He was at nine-under 135.

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