WILMINGTON, N.C. – Notes and observations from Saturday’s third round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Eagle Point Golf Club, where Patrick Reed shot a 5-under 67 to take the solo lead at 8 under par. Europeans Alex Noren and Jon Rahm each shot 69 and were one back, while FedExCup leader Dusin Johnson also fired a 67 and was still in contention, four behind. For more coverage from Eagle Point, click here for the Daily Wrap-up. REED KEEPS IT SIMPLE Patrick Reed has five PGA TOUR victories at age 26, so it’s not like he’s been struggling. But he wasn’t seeing the ball go in the hole as much as he wanted this season. He made cuts but didn’t contend, and was an early casualty at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play. Then he started missing cuts, failing to make the weekend rounds three times in April alone. He decided to make a change. Rather than consulting with his caddie and his trusty green-reading book before every putt—a practice that may soon be outlawed, anyway—Reed decided to go back to the way he did it as a highly decorated amateur at Augusta State. See putt. Hit putt. “I decided just to be more of a kind of see and react guy rather than being so technical, and having Kessler [Karain, his caddie] in there and looking at the book and trying to get the perfect line,” said Reed, who is averaging 27 putts per round at Eagle Point this week. “Go back to how I putted in college, kind of just see the putt and go knock it in.” That simple plan paid dividends Saturday as Reed tied the low round of the day. The putter has been his friend as he tries to win for the first time since The Barclays last year, and has helped him get up and down 16 times in 19 chances, best in the field. He’ll need more of the same Sunday, what with 18 players within four of the lead—and the chase pack featuring the likes of Rahm, Johnson and Phil Mickelson (69, 4 under). WIND CHANGES YET AGAIN This week was always going to be about the wind at Eagle Point, which is serving as a one-year host while Quail Hollow preps for the PGA Championship in August. If it didn’t blow, Eagle Point would yield low scores, but boy, has it ever blown. “We’ve had three different wind directions now,” said Graeme McDowell, who shot a third-round 70 and is at 4 under par, just four off the lead. “It started a southeast, went to a southwest, and today was even a little northwest. On one, for example, I hit 3-iron to the green as opposed to wedge.” McDowell laughed. “That’s a pretty big difference.” The ninth hole no longer played into the teeth of the wind, and the green (or the adjacent pond) on 18 was easily reached in two shots. Still, while Eagle Point played the easiest it has all week, yielding 67s by Reed, Dustin Johnson and Seung-Yul Noh, it wasn’t easy. The best players in the world essentially fought the course to a draw, averaging 72.228 strokes in round three. “You come to a place like this that no one’s ever seen before, and you get three different wind directions in three days, I kind of like it when that happens,” McDowell said. “It makes everyone think; it makes strategy more important. Caddies are more important. Practice rounds are more important. This is refreshing, this week.” SHOT OF THE DAY MICKELSON MAKES MOVE Phil Mickelson has flirted with winning in North Carolina plenty of times. He finished second to Payne Stewart at the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, and second to Rory McIlroy at the 2010 Wells Fargo at Quail Hollow. His Wells Fargo record since then: T9 in 2011, followed by T26, 3, T11, T4 and T4. But he’s winless in 19 previous starts in the Tar Heel State. He’s still knocking on the door. “I enjoyed it, I played well,” Mickelson said after shooting a third-round 69 to get to 4 under for the tournament and onto the first page of the leaderboard. “I had a lot of opportunities to take it even lower and really move up the leaderboard, but it was a good solid day.” After failing to birdie any of the par 5s in the second round, Mickelson birdied two of them, and birdied two par 3s as well, in the third. His round could have been even better but for a few gaffes, the last of which coming when he left his third shot in the bunker on 18. He got up and down to salvage par, but will need an extra-special round Sunday to break the streak. “It’s probably not what I needed to get right where I wanted,” Mickelson said, “but at least if I get it going tomorrow I have a good chance.” CALL OF THE DAY MOLINARI’S UNLIKELY INSPIRATION Francesco Molinari shot an even-par 72 to fall from the outright lead into a tie for fourth place. At 6 under par, he is still just two behind as he chases his first TOUR win in his 99th start. If he wins, he might give partial credit to a highly paid soccer player he doesn’t even particularly like. Molinari and pal Gonzalo Fernandez-Costano were eating at Whole Foods when talk turned to a Wednesday-night Champions League game between Monaco and Juventus, which features an Argentinian player named Gonzalo Higuain. “I said, ‘There’s no way Higuain will score a goal,’” Castano said, “and funny enough he scored two goals. So now I keep telling him, ‘Francesco, there’s no chance you’re going to win this week.’” Castano laughed. “So hopefully he’s going to win this week.” Molinari has made 11 cuts in 12 starts on TOUR this year, with three top-10s. The best of these was a T4 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. If he wins the Wells Fargo at Eagle Point on Sunday, perhaps his winner’s speech will make mention of the two Gonzalos, Higuain and Fernandez-Castano, and an odd bit of reverse psychology.
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