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 used a driver instead of a 3-wood.
In the group ahead of him, new leader Nick Watney of Dixon hit a semi-shank with a 6-iron on the par-3 17th, the ball flying toward a hospitality tent. He made a double bogey and pulled his cap over his face when the round was over to hide a mixture of anger and embarrassment.
And these were the co-leaders entering the final round at Quail Hollow.
A series of blunders in the last hour of the third round shook up the tournament, and the only consolation for Mickelson and Watney is that they were atop the leaderboard entering 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 a bogey. "I'm fortunate to still be on top."
Mickelson had a 1-over-par 73, while Watney squandered a solid round with his shank that led to a 71. They were at 8-under 208, one shot ahead of George McNeill, who also dropped two shots over the last four holes for a 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 a duel now looks more like a shootout, with a dozen players within three shots of the lead.
One was Rory McIlroy, who celebrated his 24th birthday by missing seven putts in the 5-foot range or closer. He had a 73 and lost no ground.
"I think they may have given me a little bit of a birthday present right there," McIlroy said. "I'm only three back heading into (today), and that's as good as I could ask for."
John Senden completed his round of 67 some three hours before the leaders finished.
Ryan Moore was right behind him with a 68. They were among six players who were tied for fourth, two shots behind. That group included Lee Westwood, who made two birdies and two bogeys in his otherwise boring round of 72.
The starting time for today was moved up because of rain in the forecast, with the final round starting at 6:45 a.m. EDT.
Given the forecast, Mickelson treated Saturday like the final round in case today and perhaps even Monday is a wash and the tournament is reduced to 54 holes. He made a 7-foot par putt on the 18th to tie Watney.
LPGA Tour at Williamsburg, Va. Two-time champion Cristie Kerr shot a 5-under 66 to take a two-stroke lead over second-ranked Stacy Lewis and Suzann Pettersen after the third round of the Kingsmill Championship.
Kerr, the only two-time winner at the River Course, made six birdies to reach 10-under 203. She took command on a day when seven players shared the lead at one point or another, then faltered or couldn't keep pace.
Ariya Jutanugarn, a 17-year-old Thai who led after each of the first two rounds, had three bogeys and a birdie on her first four holes and fought a balky putter for a 73 that left her five shots back, where she was tied with Lizette Salas, whose bogey-free 65 was the best round of the day.
Champions Tour in The Woodlands, Texas Gene Sauers chipped in for a birdie on the par-4 17th one day after making a double bogey on the hole and finished with a 6-under 66 to take a two-stroke lead in the Insperity Championship.
Sauers hit into the water on the 17th hole Friday but atoned for the mistake with a 25-yard chip.
Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player stepped to the first tee for a crowd-pleasing aside from the second round. The "Big Three" played in a four-team scramble, and, with a combined 34 major titles, they were a clear gallery favorite in a rare appearance together.