Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy shoot scores in 60s, but they’re not celebrating
CHARLOTTE — Golf is a funny game, example No. 12,677.
Three of the best players in the game — Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson — got the better of Quail Hollow Club in Saturday’s third round of the Wells Fargo Championship.
At least that’s what the scorecards implied. But after Woods signed for a 3-under-par 68, McIlroy a 66 and Mickelson a 64, not one of them was jumping for joy after leaving the scoring room.
They weren’t angry by any means, for each can’t be ruled out of winning the tournament (though Woods will need a herculean effort to win No. 80). But for three guys who combined to shoot 15 under, you’d think there would have been more pep in their step.
Instead, Woods was lamenting about his icy putter and thinking about what could have been, McIlroy said his game is still out of whack and Mickelson kept things in perspective because the beast that Quail Hollow was the first two rounds was a puppy in comparison in the third round, the layout playing shorter, softer and slower.
“Everything,” McIlroy answered when asked what part of his game he was most frustrated with. He went on to talk about his driver, which is usually his main weapon, that he is standing over the ball far too long because he has too many thoughts running through his mind.
“I didn’t play that well. The score sort of flatters me a little bit even with the bogey at the last,” added McIlroy, who improved 10 shots from his 76 on Friday. “The course was easier. Maybe not quite 10 shots easier but it was a few shots easier. But I was sort of still just hanging in there, sort of just trying to get it around.”
He added that one needs to be an eternal optimist in this game, and just keep looking forward. As for Woods, he’d love to put his putting woes this week behind him as quickly as possible. As he did in the first two rounds, Woods’ ball-striking from tee to green was solid, but once he got on the greens, he couldn’t strike it very well.
With 31 putts in the third round, he now has 95 for the week, and he wasn’t thrilled after the round despite shooting his first score in the 60s here since 2009. In his mind, he should have already had three rounds in the 60s this week and should be closer to the leaders.
“Well, my ball-striking’s been fine, I just haven’t made anything. If I would have made a few more putts or just been putting normal, I would have been up there next to the lead,’ Woods said.
Beginning with a post-round putting session Friday, Woods changed his stroke, going more old school, he said, which meant being a bit more handsy to put more pop in his putter. On the back nine, it looked like he had his putting down pat with birdies at 13, 14 and 15. But then he left one on the lip at 16, another on the lip on 17 and three-putted the 18th.
As has been the case all week, he just can’t keep any momentum on his side.
“I’m close,” he said. “I’m hitting the ball well enough to contend, to win this golf tournament, but I just haven’t made putts.”
Mickelson at least looked a bit more chipper than he did the first two days when he shot 72-72. Playing for the first time since his disappointing tie for 36th in the Masters, a showing that totally drained him, Mickelson was sluggish in his first two trips around Quail.
“I just felt very unfocused the first two days. I didn’t feel like I was really committed to shots,” said Mickelson, who has nine top-10s in 14 starts here but no wins. “Today I came out, I felt way better on the range. I knew I was going to have a good day.”
It would have been better if he had made birdie on the drivable par-4 14th and the reachable par-5 15th instead of par on each. Yes, he shot 64, but it could have been a 62, even a 61.
“Look, we had the tees up on a lot of holes. We hit a wedge into 17. All of a sudden it goes from one of the hardest pars to a potential birdie,” Mickelson said. “There were 10 to 12 pins we could actually get to for us to be able to make a move. It was set up for us to be able to make a move.”
The three did just that. They just didn’t make a big enough move.