Saturday, February 24, 2018
Golf

Rickie Fowler takes one-stroke lead at Wells Fargo Championship

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Rickie Fowler is looking to jump-start his season at a course where he first won on the PGA Tour.

Fowler shot 4-under 68 Saturday to take the third-round lead at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Fowler, who broke through at Quail Hollow Club in 2012 for his first tour title, had 9-under 207 overall for a one-stroke lead over Roberto Castro, with Justin Rose and James Hahn two strokes back.

Fowler won the Players Championship and Deutsche Bank Championship last year and took the European Tour event in Abu Dhabi early this year. Though he blew a late lead and lost the Phoenix Open in a playoff this season, he has the confidence to handle pressure situations in the final round. That's something he admitted he didn't have five years ago.

"It's completely different," Fowler said. "I would say before (it was) maybe not the complete belief or knowledge of knowing what to do and how to win to get the job done. But now it's fun to go out there and go take care of business."

Castro was atop the leaderboard most of the day but bogeyed the 18th hole for 71.

Winless on the tour, he said he's looking forward to playing with Fowler in the final group today.

"If you want to win a tournament out here and really win a marquee event like this one, you're going to have to grab your hat and play with one of the top five players in the world probably the final round," Castro said. "So that's what I've got (today) so I'm excited about it."

Fowler parred the first seven holes Saturday before heating up with three straight birdies on Nos. 8-10. It appeared things were starting to crumble after bogeys on 10 and 12, but Fowler came back strong with three straight birdies starting on No. 14 to pull into a tie for the lead.

He had a little luck along the way.

Fowler avoided potential trouble on the 18th hole when his ball held up in the high grass instead of rolling into the creek along left side of the fairway. Playing with the ball well above his feet, Fowler ripped an iron onto the green and saved par.

Phil Mickelson and defending champion Rory McIlroy struggled, dropping eight shots behind Fowler.

CHAMPIONS: Local favorite Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik shared the Insperity Invitational lead at 7 under, leaving John Daly six strokes back in his Champions debut at the Woodlands, Texas.

Maggert birdied the par-4 18th for 3-under 69, and playing partner Parnevik had bogey on the par-4 17th for 68.

Daly followed his opening 70 with 73 to drop into a tie for 21st at 1 under. The two-time major champion made four straight bogeys in the middle of the round and rebounded with birdies on 15 and 18. He turned 50 on April 28.

First-round leader Mike Goodes was at 6 under after 72.

LPGA: Ariya Jutanugarn birdied eight of the final nine holes to match the Yokohama Tire Classic record at 9-under 63 and take a three-stroke lead in Prattville, Ala. Seeking her first tour victory, Jutanugarn, 20, had 14-under 202 total. Ryann O'Toole and Minjee Lee were tied for second after 68s. Second-round leader So Yeon Ryu was four strokes back after 71, making two birdies and bogey.

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