Wells Fargo: Webb Simpson emerged from a crowded leaderboard with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to finish with a 3-under 69 for a one-shot lead, in the Wells Fargo Championship, on Saturday.
After playing the opening two rounds with crowd favorite Tiger Woods, all the cheers he heard at Quail Hollow were for him.
Webb was among seven players who had a share of the lead at some point in the third round. One of them was Rory McIlroy, who can return to No. 1 in the world this week. McIlroy was slowed by a three-putt late in his round, but still had a 66 and was among those two shots behind.
Five players were tied until Simpson made his birdie, and finished with a solid par to reach 14-under 202.
Ryan Moore (68) and D.A. Points (69) were one shot behind, though nothing was settled on a steamy afternoon except for Simpson atop the leaderboard and a lot of his neighbors loving it. He lives only a mile (kilometer) from the course.
Ten players were separated by four shots going into the final round, with McIlroy and another 23-year-old sure to command a lot of the attention. Rickie Fowler, trying to win for the first time on the U.S. PGA Tour, played in the group ahead of McIlroy and they matched birdies for much of the round. Fowler had a 67 and was three shots back.
Nick Watney, the 36-hole leader, missed three birdie chances inside 15 feet over the last seven holes, and then took bogey on the 18th when his drive tumbled into the creek. Watney had to settle for a 72 and joined McIlroy at 12-under 204
Stewart Cink, another player in that five-way tie, took four putts from the front of the 18th green for double bogey and shot 71. Even so, he was only three back as he tries to win for the first time since the 2009 British Open at Turnberry.
Geoff Ogilvy finished right after the leaders teed off, and despite a bogey from the creek on the 18th, he shot 65. Ogilvy thought it would at least get him within range, but as the wind picked up and the course became much tougher late in the day, the former U.S. Open champion wound up only four shots behind. Phil Mickelson ran off four straight birdies late in his round. He and Lee Westwood had 68s and were nine shots back.
Simpson has the crowd on his side, and it wasn't hard to figure out. Watney blasted a beautiful drive on the par-5 15th, followed by a fairway metal into the wind to the fringe for a two-putt birdie and a share of the lead. The crowd clapped wildly for Simpson making birdie to join him atop the leaderboard.
Meanwhile, Arjun Atwal endured a tough day, carding a three-over 75 in the third round to slip from overnight tied 10th to tied 42nd. He is now four-under 212 for 54 holes and will need a brilliant final round for a decent finish.
Atwal bogeyed the third and fourth and dropped another stroke on the eighth after a birdie on seventh. On the back-nine, he birdied the 10th but gave away bogeys on 15th and 18th.