CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Phil Mickelson has figured out the secret to the greens at Quail Hollow. Or maybe he’s just had a lot of good bounces for two days.
Mickelson opened with a pair of 15-foot birdie putts, dropped in a 40-foot putt at the turn and made back-to-back birdies late in his round Friday. He finished with 5-under-par 67 for a two-shot lead going into the weekend at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Quail Hollow, renowned for pristine conditions, had everything go wrong with spring and wound up with putting surfaces that are mostly choppy with brown patches where the grass has died. Two greens were entirely replaced by sod last week.
Despite that, Mickelson has taken only 50 putts in two rounds. And the most staggering statistic of all? He hasn’t missed from inside 10 feet.
“I think that the greens are putting very, very good, obviously, because I’ve putted them well,” Mickelson said. “But with them being slower, we’re able to putt them aggressively. We’re able to take some of the break out without fear of racing it way by. And I’ve made a concerted effort to leave uphill putts, which has allowed me to putt even more aggressive and play even less break. And that’s made a big difference in my putting.”
For a tournament that already has had six major champions win in the 10-year history, Mickelson is missing from the list. And it’s a title he dearly wants. He is at 9-under 135 heading into the weekend, though there is plenty of star power around him.
Nick Watney played with Mickelson the opening two rounds. He had 70 on Friday and is at 7-under 137, along with George McNeill (68) and Scott Gardiner (67).
Rory McIlroy struggled with the speed of the greens but rallied on the front nine with three birdies for 71. Lee Westwood twice hit into the water on the par-5 seventh and still escaped with a bogey by making a 25-foot putt. He had 68. They were in a group at 6-under 138 that included Rod Pampling, the last man in the field.
Sergio Garcia twice made news for his work on the greens.
Garcia used his wedge to knocked in a 5-footer on the third hole, only this wasn’t any protest about the overall conditions of Quail Hollow. He had a scrape mark left b