CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Phil Mickelson was 11 shots worse than his previous round at Quail Hollow Club. Bryson DeChambeau made an 8 on his 16th hole, finished his round and headed straight for the exit.
Turns out nothing was as bad as it seemed Friday in the Wells Fargo Championship.
Morning gusts gave way to a relentless wind in the afternoon and had just about everyone trying to finish without too much damage. Former U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland had a 2-under-par 69 in the morning and shared the 36-hole lead with Patrick Rodgers (68) and Matt Wallace (67) at 6-under 136, and no caught them in the afternoon. Kramer Hickok (69) was alone in fourth.
Rory McIlroy will be playing on the weekend for the first time in two months. He shot a 66, and by the end of the day, that was good for a tie for fifth, two shots out of the lead.
As for Mickelson? Never mind that the first-round leader followed a 64 with a 75, losing a little focus at the end when different swing thoughts entered his head on holes with water, the wrong kind of ripple effect.
"I'm excited to be in contention heading into the weekend," Mickelson said, "and I know I'm playing well."
On both counts, so were Baylor School graduates Keith Mitchell (71) and Luke List (72). Mitchell was tied with McIlroy, Carlos Ortiz (68), Scott Piercy (68) and Scott Stallings (69). List was three strokes out of the lead and tied for 10th, joined by Mickelson, Abraham Ancer (70) and Bubba Watson (69).
Exactly one week earlier, List had come within a stroke of making the cut at the Valspar Championship. That tournament finished with Mitchell alone in last place after a closing 82, but this week's trip to Charlotte has yielded not only two much better rounds for the Chattanooga native but an explanation about his Sunday slump.
According to a report on the PGA Tour's website, Mitchell learned after the fact — Tuesday at Quail Hollow, thanks to his swing coach — that he played the final round at Innisbrook with a bent putter.
"It was two degrees upright and a degree or so with too much loft, which effectively is like six degrees of loft, which is not what you need," Mitchell, who needed 42 putts to get through Sunday's round, said at PGATour.com.
Harris English gave Baylor's tour contingent one more representative in the top 25 heading into the weekend, shooting a 69 that had him sharing 24th at 1 under.
DeChambeau had reason to leave. Two balls in the water on the par-5 seventh led to his triple bogey and sent him to a 74. He was just inside the top 100 on the leaderboard when he left without speaking to the media. And then the wind arrived, the scores shot up and he made the cut on the number at 2-over 144.
McIlroy started the second round outside the projected cut line. He had not made it to the weekend since the Arnold Palmer Invitational two months ago, which is both factual and lacking context. That amounts to only three tournaments — missed cuts at The Players Championship and the Masters and not advancing from his group at Match Play.
A run of five birdies in eight holes Friday put him right in the mix.
Stephan Jaeger gave Baylor one more contender at a pro tournament heading into the weekend, shooting a 70 at the Korn Ferry Tour event in Middle Tennessee that had him one stroke behind leader Austin Smotherman (69), who was at 10-under 134 at The Grove.
Jaeger, who shared the 18-hole lead with Smotherman after an opening 65, is set to return to the PGA Tour next season for a second stint on the top circuit. However, with two wins already this season on the development tour, a third would make the former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga standout from Germany immediately eligible.