Cabrera, Flores share halfway lead at Wells Fargo Championship
Angel Cabrera never knows when he’s going to play his best golf. This could be shaping up as one of those weeks at the Wells Fargo Championship.
On a Quail Hollow course that lets the Argentine hit driver on just about every hole, two exquisite short-game shots late in the second round carried Cabrera to a 3-under 69 on Friday and a share of the lead with Martin Flores going into the weekend.
It was the first time Cabrera had at least a share of the 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour since the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont. The last time he was part of the lead after any round was in the 2013 Masters.
With one of the most powerful and reliable swings in golf, the mystery about the 44-year-old Argentine is that his only two on the PGA Tour are majors — Oakmont for the U.S. Open, and Augusta National when he won the Masters in a playoff in 2009.
“I’m of course happy to be in position to win this tournament, but every time I go out and play, I’m hoping to win,” Cabrera said. “It’s difficult to know exactly when you’re going to play well. I don’t think anybody knows when they’re going to play well.”
Flores couldn’t ask for a better start, and his finish wasn’t too bad, either. Flores began his second round birdie-eagle when he holed out with a wedge from 105 yards in the 11th fairway. He added a pair of birdies late in his round for a 68.
They were at 9-under 135, one shot ahead of Justin Rose, who had a 67.
Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy went the other direction.
Mickelson, one shot out of the lead to start the second round and perfect conditions ahead of him, seemed to miss every putt that he made on Thursday. He had a 75 and fell seven shots out of the lead.
“I can’t believe the difference in putting from yesterday to today,” Mickelson said. “Yesterday, I saw every ball go in the hole. And today I couldn’t get them to fall and was three-putting, which is funny because the greens today were so perfect. ... I struggled today. I don’t have any great reason. It didn’t feel far off.
“I just struggled getting the ball in the hole.”
So did McIlroy, starting with a three-putt from 18 feet on the second hole. He drove behind a tree on the third hole and hit into a bush on the fourth hole, both times taking a penalty drop and making double bogey. He wound up with a 76 and made the cut on the number at 1-over 145.
McIlroy missed five putts from 6 feet or closer.
“I just didn’t have my game today,” McIlroy said. “Off the tee it was good. I didn’t get the ball close enough. My putting didn’t feel as comfortable as it did yesterday.”
The 16th hole sized up his day. McIlroy blasted a tee shot beyond the crest of the hill, a 375-yard drive that left him a simple wedge to the green. He wound up making bogey when he missed from just inside 4 feet.
The biggest turnaround in the other direction belonged to Brendon de Jonge, who grew up in Zimbabwe and now lives in Charlotte. He opened with an 80, and followed that by tying the course record at Quail Hollow with a 62. Now he’s tied with Mickelson.
“Strange game,” de Jonge said.
The leaderboard was filled with players trying to win for the first time. Flores is in his fourth full season on the PGA Tour and has never finished in the top three. Shawn Stefani had a 68 and was two shots behind, while Kevin Kisner had a 66 and was three back.
And there are plenty of major champions who haven’t been heard from much over the last few years.
Martin Kaymer (2010 PGA Championship) had his second straight round of 69. Stewart Cink (2009 British Open) salvaged bogey from the water on the 17th and finished with a birdie for a 70. They were in the group at 6-under 138. Geoff Ogilvy (2006 U.S. Open) had seven birdies in his round of 67 and was four shots behind.
Leading the way was Cabrera, who only seems to win majors.
He made his move late with four birdies, and the last two were superb. Cabrera hit 8-iron over the lip of a fairway bunker on the par-5 seventh hole, but left himself 40 yards from a front pin. He played a pitch-and-run to about 5 feet behind the hole for a birdie to tie for the lead.
“The chip was more complicated,” he said. “I needed to decide if I wanted to bring it up or keep it low and let it bump, so I ended up doing that. It was a great shot.”
Then, he judged perfectly with a flop shot out of the rough from in front of the short par-4 eighth hole, and made the 3-foot putt for birdie to take the lead. He drove into the rough on the ninth, clipped the top of a tree and sent his ball into a bunker and failed to save par.
WELLS FARGO CHAMPIONSHIP NOTEBOOK: DEJONGE TIES COURSE RECORD WITH 62
BY STEVE REED Associated Press
CHARLOTTE -- Brendon de Jonge never expected to be playing this weekend at the Wells Fargo Championship after shooting 80 in the first round.
Then again, he never thought he would come back and tie the Quail Hollow Club course record with a 10-under 62 Friday, putting him back in contention.
De Jonge said he feels as if he’s stolen a paycheck.
“Yeah, and I’m running with it,” De Jonge said, laughing. “Everything from here on out is a bonus.”
The 18-shot turnaround was the second largest from one round to the next on the PGA Tour since Kevin Stadler went 81-61 at the 2008 Frys.com Open. Stadler did not make the cut in that tournament.
De Jonge said he came into Friday’s round with no expectations and extremely relaxed, figuring he would use the day to work on his game and gear up for The Players Championship next week.
Instead, he wound up with what he called the craziest two days of his professional career. He had eight birdies and chipped in from 63 yards away on the par-4 14th hole.
“Golf is a strange game,” he said.
De Jonge said his play on the greens was the difference. He changed putters after Thursday’s round and suddenly started rolling almost everything in, including a birdie on the difficult par-3 17th hole.
The Zimbabwe native who now lives in Charlotte said he knew he had a chance to break the course record set by Rory McIlroy in 2010 when he lined up his final putt on the ninth hole. But the 19-foot birdie attempt went past the right side of the hole.
He tapped in for par and tossed the ball to a young fan as he left the course to screams of “Great round, Brendon!”
“It’s just another golf ball,” he said with a laugh. “I’m not that superstitious.”
JUST CHILLING: Even-keeled Martin Flores has put himself in good position to win his first PGA Tour title after opening with rounds of 67 and 68.
He has never finished better than fourth place since joining the PGA Tour in 2010.
Flores rarely flashes any emotion on the course and stayed true to his personality after holing out for an eagle from the fairway on the par-4 11th hole.
“I’m pretty chill, you know,” said Flores, ranked 226th. “I may not be that way on the inside but outwardly it looks like that a lot of the time. Overall, I don’t get too up or too down. It’s a tough, tough game and you get beat up a lot.”
It was that even personality that helped him weather a double-bogey 6 on the first hole Friday and still finish strong.
Flores said now the goal is to put four solid rounds together, something he’s not accomplished on tour.
MICKELSON’S MISERY: So much for not digging himself a hole.
One day after Phil Mickelson’s 5-under 67 left him brimming with excitement over not having to come from behind — something he’s had to do repeatedly this season — the Hall of Famer shot 75.
Mickelson, in his first tournament since missing the cut at the Masters, will have plenty of work to do if he hopes to capture his first Wells Fargo Championship.
Mickelson doesn’t seem overly concerned.
“I’ll try to go out and make a run a run tomorrow,” Mickelson said. “I’m not that far back and I wasn’t that far off. It’s not like I’ve got a lot of work to do. I just need to get a little more dialed in.”
PERFECT WEEKEND: It’s expected to be a beautiful weekend in Charlotte with temperatures in the mid-70s and no rain in the forecast. Charlotte resident and former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson said he’s expecting players to take advantage of what should be prime conditions.
“I think score conditions will be perfect for us,” Simpson said. “I think (a score) in the 60s will keep me in it and give me a chance Sunday.”
BLOSSOMING: Justin Rose said he’s healthy and his game is starting to reflect that. Rose has battled tendinitis in his shoulder, something which kept him out of action earlier this year.
Rose shot 67 on Friday and was 8 under at the midway point of the tournament.
“Sometimes it’s a lag affect before it show up on the golf course, but I just felt that I needed to string a number of rounds together,” Rose said. “I’ve had a lot of stop-starts this year and I just felt like I needed to get toned and sharp, and that’s beginning to show.”
DIVOT: Defending Wells Fargo champion Derek Ernst put himself in contention heading into the weekend after a second round 68 left him at 3 under.