— Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson’s games slipped a bit on Friday, allowing other names to top the leaderboard.
Tiger Woods got off to a slightly slower start on Friday compared to the day before, making his first bogey of the week with a 5 on the first hole after he hit his tee shot into the trees right of the fairway.
With an early tee time, it looked like Phil Mickelson was in perfect position to post a low number early and let everyone else try to catch him — most notably Tiger Woods, who didn’t tee off until about an hour ago. And things certainly started off well enough with back-to-back birdies on Nos. 14 and 15. Six holes and a double bogey and a bogey later, however, and Mickelson was at 1 over and fighting his game.
Thanks to two more back-to-back birdies, this time at Nos. 5 and 6, Mickelson was able to get back under par on the day and 6 under for the tournament. That leaves him in good shape heading to the weekend, but also sent Mickelson to the practice green to work on his game.
“I wasn’t quite into the round,” Mickelson said. “I had a couple of mistakes and didn’t take advantage of birdie holes.”
Mickelson acknowledged that the greens are as perfect as could be, but there are some tough pin positions out there and because of that, players are being left with a lot of 40, 50 and 60 footers they’ll need to lag putt. Sure enough, Mickelson had nine two-putts and one four-putt.
“The Green Mile,” as Nos. 16, 17 and 18 here at Quail Hollow are called, is undoubtedly one of the hardest finishing stretches in all of golf and on Friday that stretch was playing even more difficult than it did yesterday.
The 478-yard, par-4 18th has been the hardest hole on the course both days (and will be all week), but 16 and 17 are playing even tougher than they did yesterday when they both played .118 strokes over par. Today, the 480-yard 16th is nearly a quarter-of-a-stroke over par, while the 217-yard 17th is nearly a half-stroke over par.
Perhaps the most telling stat of the day on that stretch: A combined 13 birdies were made there all day.
Bubba Watson was the talk of the day during Round 2 as he got the par he needed on No. 9 to match the front-nine record of 30 at Quail Hollow. As a result, Watson was in with a 7-under 65 and, at least for the moment, is tied for the lead with Tiger Woods, who just dropped a stroke.
Like Woods, Watson didn’t find the fairway much, hitting just 4 of 14 on his round, but he still hit 13 of 18 greens in regulation and needed only 27 putts. For Watson, it’s his lowest round since a 63 in the fourth round of the 50th Bob Hope Classic hosted by Arnold Palmer.
Tiger Woods was 2 under on his round and grinding out pars on the back nine, looking like he would be in the lead, or at least share it, heading to the weekend at Quail Hollow — until the “Green Mile” got him like it did most everybody else.
Woods bogeyed two of the final three holes, unable to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker on No. 16 when he missed a 14-footer and unable to convert a two-putt from almost 89 feet on the final hole. As a result, Woods dropped to even on the day and back to 7 under, one shot shy of the lead held by Bubba Watson and Retief Goosen, who will play in Saturday’s final pairing
Dropping out of the final group, however, shouldn’t have much effect on Woods. He’s been terrific on the weekends and leads the PGA TOUR in final-round scoring average at 67.67. His third-round average (69.67) isn’t too shabby either, ranking 31st. If Saturday is moving day, expect Woods to do just that. Whether or not Watson, Goosen or Zach Johnson or George McNeill can keep pace, we’ll just have to wait and see.