By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer
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 hide a mixture of anger and 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 Wells Fargo Championship, and the only consolation for Mickelson and Watney is that 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 had a 1-over 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 duel now looks more like a shootout, with a dozen players within three shots 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 a 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 heading into tomorrow, 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 has been moved up because of rain in the forecast, with the final round starting at 6:45 a.m. 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.
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 LPGA Tour’s 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.
Lewis shot a 69, and Pettersen, the 2007 champion, had a 68. Angela Stanford was three strokes back after a 70, and Ilhee Lee was fifth at 6 under after an all-over-the-place 69.
Ariya Jutanugarn, the 17-year-old Thai player 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.
THE WOODLANDS, Texas — Gene Sauers chipped in for birdie on the par-4 17th a day after making a double bogey on the hole, and finished with a 6-under 66 to take a two-stroke lead in the Champions Tour’s Insperity Championship.
Sauers hit into the water on the 17th hole Friday, but atoned for the mistake Saturday with a 25-yard chip.
The 50-year-old Sauers, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour who is making his 10th career start on the 50-and-over tour, had an 8-under 136 total at The Woodlands Country Club.
First-round leader Mike Goodes was second after his second straight 69.
TIANJIN, China — Australia’s Brett Rumford of Australia shot a 3-under 69 to take a one-stroke lead in the China Open, putting him in position for his second European Tour victory in two weeks.
The Ballantine’s Championship winner today in South Korea last week, Rumford was 12 under at Binhai Lake. Finland’s Mikko Ilonen was second after a 73.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — South African star Ernie Els shot a 4-under 68 move within a stroke of leader Daisuke Kataoka of Japan after the third round of the Asian Tour’s Indonesian Masters.
Kataoka had a 66 to reach 11 under at Royale Jakarta Golf Club. Australia’s Bernd Wiesberger had a 67 to share second place with Els.