Saturday's Round 3 at the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship was as eventful a day as we've had all season on the PGA Tour. From Peter Uihlein's early 62 to Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to Rickie Fowler four-putting from 19 feet to Jason Day assuming the lead late, there was a lot going on.
When the dust settled, though, Day stood atop the leaderboard at 10 under with a 4-under 67 in Round 3 and will take a 2-stroke lead into the final round on Sunday over Aaron Wise (-8). Day, who only has three bogeys through the first three rounds, got hot late on Saturday. After playing his first eight holes in 1 over, Day played his last 10 in 5 under to get to double digits under par for the day.
Day is one of the best putters (if not the best) on tour, but he's been getting it done this week from tee to green. That's what should worry his competitors. It's not as if he's riding a heater on the greens (he's a respectable 11th in strokes gained putting this week). It's every other club that's working thus far. Even on the final hole when he pulled his drive left near a hazard and had to roll his pants up to hit it, he stuck the approach to 31 feet and two-putted for par.
"Today it was a bit of a struggle through eight holes," Day told Amanda Balionis of CBS Sports. "I knew it wasn't going to be like this forever. I knew that things were going to turn around. I just had to keep focused. Tomorrow is going to be challenging. I've got all the pressure on my shoulders, but I'd much rather be in this position than chasing."
Day is looking for his second win of the season and the 12th of his career on the PGA Tour. His T9 at the PGA Championship here in 2017 was waylaid by a quadruple bogey on the 18th hole in the middle of the tournament. No doubt that will be on everyone's minds as the tournament winds down on Sunday. And if the final round is anything like what we saw on Saturday, we're in for some serious fireworks.
Here are four more takeaways from Round 3.
1. Rickie Fowler's disappointing finish: As they say, that escalated quickly. Fowler made birdies at Nos. 14-16 and hit a filthy 8-iron to 19 feet on the par-3 17th. Another birdie was on tap. Then it turned into a par, then a bogey ... then a double bogey. Four putts and two missed three-footers later, Fowler was in for a 5 on the par 3. He parred the last and sits at 4 under going into Sunday, but the damage was certainly done and the momentum quelled.
Rickie Fowler was 279-for-280 putting inside 3 feet this season before the 17th hole today. Then he missed consecutive putts inside 3' to make double.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) May 5, 2018
2. How good was Peter Uihlein's 62? The course record at Quail Hollow is 61, which Rory McIlroy shot in the third round in 2015. He gained 10.7 (!) strokes on the field that day. The course has changed since then, though, and it has become a bit more difficult. Still, Uihlein gained 8.4 strokes on this field on Saturday. So while the 62 was pretty good, it wasn't quite good enough to be considered the best round ever at this place.
3. Tiger says he's close: Woods insisted multiple times after his round that he's on the verge of something special. First, he told Golf Channel. Then he spoke to a gaggle of reporters waiting for him.
"I'm close," Woods told the AP. "I'm hitting the ball well enough to contend, to win this golf tournament, but I just haven't made putts. Maybe I can play a low one (tomorrow) and see what happens. I feel like I'm hitting the ball well enough and just trending in the right direction for next week."
He's right about the last part. Woods is in the top 10 in strokes gained from tee to green, but nearly last of the 87 golfers who made the cut in putting. An average week, as he pointed out, would have resulted in a win or near win for Big Cat. Look out, Players Championship.
4. Justin Thomas goes for No. 1: How awkward is it going to be when Thomas makes birdie at the last hole to get to T11 and gets champagne poured on him for becoming just the seventh American ever to rise to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Subplot Sunday: Justin Thomas will enter tomorrow's final round at 1-under. A solo 12th or better moves JT to world number 1 next week - he's currently 4 back of a tie for 10th that would do the trick.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) May 5, 2018
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