Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and a plethora of golf's top players are in Charlotte, North Carolina, this weekend for the 2014 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club.
Surprisingly, both McIlroy and Mickelson got off to unimpressive starts in the first three rounds but still had a chance to bring home the title with a strong push on Sunday.
To do so, they'd have to unseat J.B. Holmes, who carried the lead into the final round.
Here's a look at the updated leaderboard after Round 4, via PGATour.com:
|Pos.||Player||Total||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4|
|T6||Brendon de Jonge||-9||80||62||68||69|
*Click here to view the complete leaderboard via PGATour.com.
Day 4 Recap
J.B. Holmes overcame an on-rushing Jim Furyk to win the 2014 Wells Fargo Championship. Holmes shot two under for the round and 14 under for the tournament:
With the victory, the 32-year-old qualifies for the 2014 PGA Championship, per Jeff Woods of WBKO in Bowling Green, Ky.:
If J.B. Holmes holds on for the win here, he qualifies for this year's PGA Championship at Valhalla. Can play for a major in his home state.— Jeff Woods (@jwoods_wbko) May 4, 2014
For Holmes, his career on the golf course has been in the cards for a long time, per GolfChannel.com's Jason Sobel:
Still my favorite J.B. Holmes tidbit ever: He played on the varsity golf team at Taylor County High School when he was in third grade.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) May 4, 2014
Holmes was a deserved winner, having been in contention throughout the entire tournament. His work on the green was also something to admire, per ESPN Stats and Info's Justin Ray:
JB Holmes made all 48 of his putts inside 5 feet this week. The last one gets him his 3rd career @PGATOUR win.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) May 4, 2014
Furyk mounted a furious comeback in the final round, but it was too little too late. His seven under on Sunday got him to within one stroke of Holmes. He had a share of the lead during the final 18, but Holmes eventually retook his position atop the leaderboard.
Phil Mickelson looked like he might be in a position to mount a title challenge on Sunday, but two bogies and a double-bogey on the back nine all but ended his hopes of a top-10 finish. Mickelson finished at four over for the day.
Rory McIlroy also failed to close out the tournament well, only shooting a two-under and ending up in a tie for eighth.
Day 3 Recap
Saturday during the biggest tournaments is known as moving day, and it proved to be true once again at the 2014 Wells Fargo Championship as stars like Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy took the motto to heart.
With both men struggling coming into Saturday’s third round, they understood what needed to be done. Mickelson dominated the Quail Hollow course by shooting an incredible nine-under-par and McIlroy followed suit by shooting seven-under-par.
After fighting into contention, Mickelson told Steve DiMeglio of USA Today about his play and looking forward to Sunday’s action:
It was a very meaningful round for me today. I was able to put everything together. I played well from tee to green. I hit the ball well, put it in play, I hit good iron shots and was able to capitalize on those shots with some good putts, and it feels good because I hadn't really been able to put it all together this year. It felt close.
… Just to be in contention, and to have a chance at a golf course that I've become so close to over the years, I'm excited about (Sunday's) round. My game is starting to feel sharp and mentally I was much more focused throughout the entire round today, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's final round. … It's going to be a fun day tomorrow.
Mickelson and McIlroy now sit in third and 11th respectively.
The other surprise of the day was relative unknown J.B. Holmes rocketing to the top of the leaderboard with yet another stellar round. With a score of 70, 67 and 66 over the first three days of the tournament, Holmes has been the picture of consistency.
Holmes' road to the top is unlikely, and Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer chronicles his struggles:
With a packed field at the top of the leaderboard and several serious contenders still within striking distance, Sunday’s final day of action should be the best fans see all week.
Day 2 Recap
Friday at Quail Hollow was a day of incredibly low numbers, allowing for a boom toward the top of the leaderboard and a plethora of jaw-dropping round totals as Martin Flores and Angel Cabrera entered the clubhouse tied for the lead at nine under.
But no round was more impressive than Brandon de Jonge's.
The Zimbabwean shot a round of 62 on Friday. That's 10 shots under par and ties the Quail Hollow course record, per the Associated Press via Fox News.
He ripped off eight birdies on his 18 holes—four on the front nine, four on the back nine—and added an eagle on hole No. 14 to get to 10 below par and finish as well as anyone ever has on a course that's been a mainstay on the PGA Tour from 1969-79 and from 2003 until today.
The most impressive part of de Jonge's round is that it came after he shot an 80 on Thursday's opening round. The 19-shot difference in between rounds was the "second-largest from one round to the next since Kevin Stadler shot 61-81 in 1980," per AP.
Knoxville News Sentinel's Jesse Smithey capped up the imbalance of de Jonge's two rounds:
Brendon de Jonge shoots 80-62 at Quail Hollow. Perfect example of the love-hate relationship in golf. Or hate-love, in his case.— Jesse Smithey (@JesseKNS) May 2, 2014
Despite de Jonge's spectacular round, it was Flores and Cabrera who were able to the top the leaderboard after two rounds. Justin Rose climbed to eight-under par after shooting five under on the day.
Rose's round of 67 was one of the highlights of the day, as was this 68-foot eagle chip from just off the green on the hole No. 15:
Flores moved from one shot off the lead into a share of the lead after a high-flying Round 2 that produced shockingly low rounds, and used a handful of big moments to get himself into a tie with Cabrera entering Saturday.
Certainly his best moment of the day was this second shot on the par four 11th, which he incredibly landed for a big eagle:
Kevin Streelman made one of the best plays so far of the tournament on the par five 10th hole, when he holed a chip-in from way off the green and energized the fans:
With 16 players within five shots of the lead, it's sure to be an incredible finish heading into Moving Day at Quail Hollow. Thursday gave the majority of golfers trouble, but Friday produced low scores all around.
If that keeps up for Saturday, we'll be in for plenty more movement across the leaderboard.
Day 1 Recap
Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera got off to a hot start on Thursday, birdieing three of the four par fives and recording four consecutive birdies during a stretch that spanned from the end of the front nine through the 12th hole.
Cabrera would bogey just one hole for the round to take the early lead, as pointed out by GolfChannel.com senior writer Jason Sobel:
Angel Cabrera is your early leader. Potential headline: Duck defeats Quail.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) May 1, 2014
But Cabrera wasn't the only past major winner feeling it on Thursday. Mickelson had six birdies to his name in Round 1 before finally suffering a bogey on No. 13.
Here's a look at one of Lefty's early birdies on the par-four eighth hole:
Mickelson would execute a similar situation perfectly on the par-four 12th hole:
As ESPN senior researcher Justin Ray points out, Lefty's strong Day 1 performance is nothing new:
Phil Mickelson to -6, T-1st. This is Phil's 11th start at this event - he's never failed to break par in the 1st round (combined score -25).— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) May 1, 2014
Not far behind Cabrera and Mickelson, McIlroy is right where he wants to be heading into Friday's second round. The 24-year-old started on the back nine on Thursday, and, despite recording back-to-back bogeys down the stretch, back-to-back birdies on hole Nos. 5 and 6 allowed him to build some momentum heading into the clubhouse.
After shooting a three-under 69 in Round 1, McIlroy talked about the improvements he's made off the tee, per ESPN.com's Bob Harig:
You work off your strengths in this game, it's the foundation of the game, and for me that's driving the golf ball. I drove the golf ball not very well for the better part of six or seven months last year. Then I started driving well the end of the year, and I've carried that through into this year.
McIlroy's ability to hit long drives will be key the rest of the way. And when he won this tournament back in 2010, he saved his best golf for the weekend, shooting 16 under par over the final rounds after shooting one over through the first two rounds.
While McIlroy appears to be a strong contender heading into the final 54 holes, defending champion Derek Ernst will have significant ground to make up after a lackluster opening-round performance.
The 23-year-old Ernest found birdies tough to come by on Thursday and struggled on the par fives, bogeying No. 7 and shooting par on the other three. He'll have to take advantage of those birdie opportunities on Friday if he's going to have a shot at defending his crown over the weekend.
Meanwhile, past major champions like Webb Simpson and Vijay Singh are in contention heading into Round 2. Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion, shot a four-under 68 on Thursday, while three-time major winner Singh settled for a three-under 69.
If Simpson and Singh can turn in impressive rounds on Friday, they could be dark-horse contenders by the time the weekend arrives.
But for now, Mickelson appears to be the man to beat at Quail Hollow. He's never won this event before and will have added motivation to secure a title with the 2014 U.S. Open on the horizon.
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