CHARLOTTE: Nick Watney put a string of lackluster rounds behind him on Friday to fire an eight-under 64 and seize the 36-hole lead in the US PGA Tour’s $6.5 million Wells Fargo Championship.
On a day when 14-time major champion Tiger Woods missed the cut for just the eighth time in his pro career, Watney was going in the other direction — up. It was a marked change of fortune for Watney, who hadn’t broken 70 in his previous nine rounds and hadn’t managed a top-10 finish in nine stroke-play events.
“I think last week was a wake-up call for me,” Watney said of missing the cut at New Orleans. “And I’ve worked really hard these five days leading into this event. I think it just shows I’m making progress,” added Watney, whose round included seven birdies and an eagle at the par-five 15th. “Who knows what’s going to happen this weekend, but I’m really excited for it. More hard work, and hopefully I’ll be in this position a lot more.”
Watney had a 12-under total of 132 and was one stroke in front of fellow American Webb Simpson, who had five birdies in a four-under 68 for 133. Simpson played alongside Woods, who was erratic off the tee and struggled on the greens en route to a one-over 73 for even-par 144. “If he holed putts, he’d be in contention,” said Australian Geoff Ogilvy, who played with Woods and Simpson.
One of Woods’s misses was a four-footer for birdie at the eighth, his penultimate hole of the day. He rolled it three feet past the pin. Woods got one break, when he was given a free drop at the par-five fifth after officials determined a fan walked off with his ball.
The break did Woods little good, however. He was equal 85th when he walked off the course and outside the top-70 and ties that made the cut at one-under 143. “Well, it’s frustration,” Woods said. “I finished, what, 12 back of the lead, and I’m not playing the weekend where I have a chance to compete for a title.”
Stewart Cink, seeking his first victory since his British Open triumph at Turnberry in 2009, carded a 69 and was tied with Ben Crane, DA Points and Aussie John Senden on 134. Crane carded a 64, while Points and Senden both shot 68. American Ryan Moore was alone on 135 after a 70, which included a penalty stroke after his ball moved as he prepared for a tap-in.
US Open champion Rory McIlroy, celebrating his 23rd birthday on Friday, fired five birdies in a four-under par 68. He was six off the pace going into the weekend at Quail Hollow, where he won his first US tour title in 2010. That year he put his birthday celebration off until the Monday after his triumph.