CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Phil Mickelson's ball was just above the edge of the cart path, slightly below his feet, when he decided to hit a hard fade around the trees toward the green. The shot went out of bounds and cost him the outright lead Saturday in the Wells Fargo Championship, and Mickelson was angry about his decision.
He felt he should have hit driver instead of 3-wood.
In the group ahead of him, new leader Nick Watney hit a semi-shank with a 6-iron on the par-3 17th, the ball flying toward a hospitality tent. He made double bogey, and pulled his cap over his face when the round was over to cover his embarrassment.
And these were the co-leaders going into the final round at Quail Hollow.
A series of blunders in the last hour of the third round shook up the PGA Tour event, and the only consolation for Mickelson and Watney is they were atop the leaderboard going into a final round that features a forecast of rain.
"Every shot is critical. You just can't throw a bunch of shots away like I did coming down the stretch," said Mickelson, who also plunked a spectator in the head with his approach on the 16th and made bogey. "I'm fortunate to still be on top."
Mickelson shot 1-over 73, while Watney squandered a solid round with his shank that led to 71. They were at 8-under 208, one shot ahead of George McNeill, who also dropped two shots over the last four holes for 72.
"I can't remember the last time I did that in a tournament, so it was a bit unsettling" Watney said about his shank. "The big picture? I'm tied for the lead, and I would have taken that on Thursday morning."
Even so, what had been shaping up as duel now looks more like a shootout, with a dozen players within three of the lead.
One of them was Rory McIlroy, who celebrated his 24th birthday by missing seven putts in the 5-foot range or closer. He had 73 and didn't lose any ground on the lead. "I think they may have given me a little bit of a birthday present right there," McIlroy said. "I'm only three back … and that's as good as I could ask for."
The starting time for today has been moved up because of rain in the forecast, with the final round starting at 6:45 a.m.
LPGA: Two-time champion Cristie Kerr shot 5-under 66 to take a two-stroke lead over Stacy Lewis and Suzann Pettersen after the third round of the Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Va. Kerr was at 10-under 203. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome (71) was at 2-over 215 and Tampa resident Kristy McPherson (76) at 7-over 220.
Champions: Gene Sauers chipped in for birdie on the par-4 17th a day after making double bogey on the hole and finished with 6-under 66 to take a two-stroke lead at 8-under 136 in the Insperity Championship at the Woodlands, Texas. First-round leader Mike Goodes was second after his second straight 69.