Mickelson fades as trio of golfers take lead at Wells Fargo Championship

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Phil Mickelson plays a second shot on the fifth hole during the second round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club on Friday, May 7, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. - Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America/TNS

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Phil Mickelson’s bid to win his first Wells Fargo Championship took a hit Friday afternoon.

Mickelson, who began the day with a two-shot lead, fell behind on the leaderboard after a disastrous back nine that saw him go 4-over-par for the day.

Mickelson carded three bogeys and a double bogey. It actually could have been worse. On No. 14, Mickelson hit a ball in the water off the tee. Fortunately, he was able to save par.

It was a rough day for Mickelson, who carded a 64 on Day 1 to finish Thursday at 7-under.

Still, Mickelson enters the third round only three shots out of the lead at 3-under.

Mickelson, a five-time major championship winner, is trying to win his first Wells Fargo Championship in 16 attempts. The 50-year-old golfer has eight top-five finishes, including a runner-up finish, but has never finished first.

Mickelson’s struggles were apparent on the back nine. He bogeyed holes 11 and 15, and double bogeyed 17, a par-3.

His first shot on 17 fell short of the green into the water, causing him to take a penalty stroke. He hit the next shot within 17 feet of the cup and finally tapped it in two shots later.

“I just — I just wasn’t sharp,” Mickelson said. “I think kind of an example of what I’ve been talking about is like, on 17 we’re standing over the ball, and I’m changing my mind and I’m changing the shot, moving the clubhead a little bit and it just — instead of backing away and kind of refocusing, I just kind of hit it and I’m not really kind of aware of what I’m doing. So I’ve got to fix that and work on it.”

Mickelson hasn’t won a PGA Tour event since February 2019, when he won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. And he’s won only two events since the 2014 season.

But he said he remained optimistic about the Wells Fargo Championship heading into the weekend.

Other big names

Mickelson wasn’t the only player to struggle Friday.

Justin Thomas, who is ranked No. 2 in the world, and is currently second in the Fed Ex Cup standings, shot a 2-over 73 on Friday, and is even par heading into Saturday.

Jon Rahm, ranked third in the world, had a good day on Friday, but it was not good enough to make up for his struggles in the opening round. He finished 4-over through two days and missed the cut.

Xander Schauffele, who is ranked fourth, was even on the day, and 1-over through the first two rounds.

Leaders

Matt Wallace, Gary Woodland and Patrick Rogers are in a three-way tie for first place. They are all 6-under through the first two days.

Kramer Hickok is in fourth at 5-under, and Rory McIlroy, Keith Mitchell and Scott Piercy are tied for fifth at 4-under.