RELATED: Ranking | Rory McIlroy enters Wells Fargo Championship
Turns out nothing has been as bad as it looked on Friday in the Wells Fargo Championship.
The morning gusts gave way to a relentless afternoon wind and almost everyone tried to finish without too much damage. Former US Open champion Gary Woodland was 2 under 69 in the morning and shared the 36-hole lead with Matt Wallace (67) and Patrick Rodgers (68).
No one in the afternoon could catch them at 6 under 136.
Rory McIlroy will play this weekend for the first time in two months. He shot a 66, and at the end of the day it was good for a fifth place, two headshot.
As for Mickelson?
Never mind that he called a 64 with a 75, losing some concentration at the end when different swing thoughts entered his head on holes with water, the wrong kind of ripple effect. .
“I’m delighted to be in contention going into the weekend, and I know I’m playing well,” said Mickelson.
DeChambeau had reasons for leaving. Two balls in the water on the par-5 seventh led to his triple bogey and sent him to a 74. He was just inside the top 100 when he walked off without speaking. And then the wind came in, the scores went up and he reduced the number to 2 out of 144.
“The toughest conditions I’ve played in a while,” said Justin Thomas after a 73 that included a three-putt double bogey on the 13th par-3. His 18-foot downhill putt caught a gust so strong it came to a stop 4 feet short.
“Even the downwind holes were tough,” said Carlos Ortiz of Mexico, who has lived in Texas for the past 12 years where he described typical conditions as “windy or windier”. Getting used to it doesn’t make things easier, even though Ortiz had a 68, the best score of the afternoon.
That left him in the group at 4 under 138.
Mickelson was in the squad another shot behind, determined to end a drought so severe he didn’t finish in the top 20 in nine months.
It all felt and looked so easy when he opened with a 64. It was more of a challenge, especially late in the round, and Mickelson felt his focus melt away again.
He hit the water on the 14th deciding to draw or cut (he still managed the par; his corner play is still among the best).
After a good tee shot in the 16th par-5, Mickelson was unsure of what to do with his next. He shot well to the right of the green, and his shot on the high flop landed too far and went overboard. He chipped badly at about 12 feet and turned what appeared to be a safe bird into a bad scarecrow.
Two holes later he found the water on par-5 17th for a double bogey.
“The back nine, I just wasn’t sharp,” Mickelson said. “I think an example of what I talked about is the 17th, we stand on top of the ball and I change my mind and change my stroke, moving my club head a bit. Instead of stepping back and refocusing, I just hit and am not really aware of what I’m doing. So I have to solve this problem.
In his mind, he threw two shots on the 15th and 17th holes, unlike a par score.
“I just can’t keep doing this,” Mickelson said. “I am however optimistic for the weekend.
McIlroy started the second round off the projected cut line. He didn’t make it over the weekend from Bay Hill two months ago, which is factual and lacks context. That equates to just three tournaments – missed cups at THE PLAYERS Championship and Masters, skipping his group at the WGC-Dell Technologies Play match.
He turned around quickly, starting with one of his rare bad records. That of 14 sailed well to the right of the bunkers, the gallery, everything except the mansions just outside the property. He tried to put his wedge down anywhere near the green, and just his good fortune, it slipped across the putting surface and came to a stop at one foot. That sent him to five birdies over his next eight holes, and straight into the mix.
“It was probably the catalyst for a great little race,” said McIlroy.
Woodland was all smiles. He missed the cup last week at Innisbrook, called Butch Harmon and decided to revert to his previous coaches, Harmon and Pete Cowen. It didn’t take long for him to feel better. His hip doesn’t bother him and his swing feels good.
Woodland still did not understand the home stretch, our 16-18s, playing them in 3 over two laps. But he likes where he’s going.
“I saw some snaps this week that I just haven’t seen in a long time,” he said. “The golf swing feels so much better. Confidence has increased, which I didn’t really have last year. … It’s exciting right now.
Not so excited was Jon Rahm. He charged late until he finished with two bogeys for a 70 to miss the cut for the first time in 11 months.