J.B. Holmes carded a 6-under-par 66 to take a one-stroke lead over Martin Flores to the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club on a day Phil Mickelson announced that he is still in the tournament with a 63.
The 32-year-old Holmes, who was a young star on the rise when he captured the FBR Open in 2007 and 2008 before being plagued by medical issues, holed an 18-foot putt on the 18th hole for his seventh birdie of the round.
“I’ve been playing pretty well the last few weeks but put it all together today,” said Holmes, who only last week regained his PGA Tour card on a major medical extension with a tie for 11th in the Shell Houston Open.
“I wasn’t putting any pressure on myself, but it was nice to get that over with. It was nice, more than anything just to solidify my schedule a little bit.”
Flores, who has never won as a pro and was tied for the 36-hole lead with Angel Cabrera of Argentina, was even with Holmes before missing a 19-foot putt for par on the 18th hole and recording his only bogey in a round of 69.
Mickleson, coming off a 75 and looking for his first top-10 finish of the year, started early and took the lead for a while with a blistering 63, finishing the day two strokes back in third. He carded five birdies and an eagle on the seventh hole while playing the front nine in 7-under 29.
“It was a really good day from start to finish,” said Mickelson, who fell one shot short of the course record. “I drove it well, my iron game was sharp and I putted well, so it felt good. I’ve had a rough year so far and I have put it all together, and this was a good start.
“I capitalized on a couple of good iron shots early, on Nos. 4 and 6, made a couple of longs putts from about 12-to-15 feet, and that got me going. And that was a big momentum saver, getting up-and-down for par on 18. Finishing strong was a real plus.”
Kevin Kisner, who claimed his second Web.com Tour victory last year in the Chile Classic, recorded seven birdies in a 68 and was another stroke back in fourth, while U.S. Open champion Justin Rose of England had a 71 and was tied for fifth with Jason Bohn, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, who came in with a 67.
Rory McIlroy, who won the tournament in 2010 with a final-round 62 after making the cut on the number and is trying to do it again, moved back into contention by following a 76 with a 65, but was seven shots behind in a tie for 11th.