Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney each stumbled with the lead on Saturday, leaving the US duo tied atop the leaderboard after three rounds at the US PGA Wells Fargo Championship.
Mickelson took a double bogey at the par-five 15th and a bogey at 16 to hand Watney the lead, only to have Watney double bogey the par-three 17th and leave both even on eight-under 208 for 54 holes in the US$6.7 million event at Quail Hollow.
“I was grinding it out there, even though I didn’t have my ‘A game’ coming down the stretch,” said Mickelson, who fired a 73, while Watney settled for a 71. “I played poorly coming down the stretch and I’m lucky to be tied for the lead.”
American George McNeill was third on 209, with England’s Lee Westwood and David Lynn, Sweden’s Robert Karlsson, Australian John Senden and Americans Ryan Moore and Derek Ernst another stroke off the pace.
World No. 2 Rory McIlroy fired a 73 on his 24th birthday to stand on 211 with Americans D.A. Points, Kevin Streelman, Brian Harman and Jason Kokrak.
McIlroy’s pals bought him a long-lasting portable phone battery, while his girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wosniacki, had some purchases of her own.
“Got me this new bracelet and a couple pairs of shoes, a bag, sent me a birthday cake, actually I got that in my room today, so all good,” he said.
Watney knows he and Mickelson allowed a host of rivals back within reach yesterday, when the threat of storms has prompted organizers to play in threesomes off two tees early in the morning to try and complete the round.
“There are a lot of really good players now two or three shots back,” Watney said. “Obviously, you would like to have as much distance as possible, but who knows, maybe this will be a good story.”
Three-time Masters champion Mickelson found the right rough at the 15th, put his second shot out of bounds, dropped for a penalty stroke and blasted short of the green, then needed three strokes to get down from there.
Mickelson struck a spectator in the head at the 16th on the way to a bogey, but the left-hander finished with two pars to salvage a share of the lead.
He had started with a bogey at the third, but answered with birdies at the par-five fifth, par-four eighth and par-five 10th. He answered a bogey at the 12th with a birdie two holes later, before disaster struck.
Watney’s late blunder ensured a shootout on the final day.