Planet Golf — 04 May 2012 by Jim Street
Wells Fargo – Day Three: Significant others

. . .And down the stretch they come.

No, not a replay of the exciting Kentucky Derby, but the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, where the final round on Sunday shapes up as a potential 10-horse race to the finish.

That’s how many golfers are within four shots of the lead.

Webb Simpson, who lives about a mile from the golf course, used his local knowledge again Saturday to shoot a 3-under 69 and grab a one-shot lead at 14-under after three rounds. The closest pursuers include Rory McIlroy, who fired a 66 despite a three-putt, and is two shots behind.

The Northern Ireland native has a shot at reclaiming the No. 1 ranking in the world on Sunday.

Talk about a horse race. Simpson was among five players that were tied for the lead at one point, but broke away from the pack with a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 17. He leads D.A. Points and Ryan Moore by one shot.

Nick Watney, the second-round leader, wobbled a bit on moving day. He missed three birdie chances inside 15 feet over the last seven holes, and then took a bogey on the 18th when his drive went into the creek. He settled for a 72 and joined McIlroy at 12-under 204.

Besides playing in his own back yard, Simpson had the luxury of playing in a group without Tiger Woods, who stood out for all the wrong reasons during the first two rounds of the tournament. Tiger turned pussycat the first two days, shooting even-par and missed the cut for only the eighth time in his career.

Here’s how the Significant Others fared after two rounds:

McIIroy (No. 2 ranked player in the world) – A six-under 66 put a 12-under 204, two behind the leader. He won his first PGA tournament here two years ago with a final round 62. Of the top 22 players going into the final round, he is the only player to have won this year.

Hunter Mahan (No. 5 ranked player in the world; No. 1 in FedEx Cup points) – A double-bogey on the par 3 17th and bogey on the par 4 18th were the primary reasons he fell 32 places on the leader board, all the way into a tie for 66th place.

Phil Mickelson (No. 10 ranked player in the world) – Lefty had four consecutive birdies late in his round en route to a 4-under 68, but is nine shots behind the leader and rests in a tie for 30th place. He gained 33 spots on moving day.

Lee Westwood (No. 3 ranked player in the world) – He is having an identical tournament as Mickelson, shooting exactly the same score on the first three days. Westwood couldn’t get anything going on the front nine, reeling off nine consecutive pars, but birdied No. 10 and added consecutive birdies on Nos. 14, 15 and 16.

Geoff Ogilvy (ranked 52nd in the world) – The Australian fired a 7-under 65 on Saturday to make the biggest jump among the leaders. The superb round catapulted him 26 spots and into a tie for eighth place on the leaderboard. He is gunning for his first top-10 finish of the season.

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Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with MLB.com. He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, never had a hole-in-one, although once he came within two inches of an ace, and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick in Scotland, and Princeville are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and vacations in Arizona (and other warm climates) as much as possible.

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