Peter Malnati and Tiger Woods both had reason to celebrate on the ninth green at Quail Hollow at the end of their rounds.
Malnati was coming off two straight birdies to take the lead Friday in the Wells Fargo Championship when he put his five-iron in a deep bunker to the right, with the green running away from him. He was trying to blast out to 15 feet, but he got the club too much under the ball and feared for the worst until it cleared the lip by inches.
Malnati emphatically wiped his hand across his brow, made the 6-foot par putt for a three-under-par 68 and had a one-shot lead over Jason Day and Aaron Wise.
“Pretty scary when I hit it,” he said. “I got away with it, looked like a genius.”
Hours earlier, Woods stood over an 18-foot putt on No. 9, his final hole of another ordinary round that up until then featured no birdies. He finally made one, and stretched out both hands in mock celebration when it dropped.
“I’m on a hot streak right now. I made the last putt,” he said.
Never mind that it was the only putt he made longer than 5 feet. Or that he was nine shots out of the lead in a tie for 48th, his worst position through 36 holes in his last five tournaments. At least he was still playing on the weekend at Quail Hollow, where he had missed the cut his previous two trips. That putt made certain of it, though Woods made it the cut with one shot to spare.
Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson also had to sweat it out.
McIlroy, the only two-time winner at the Wells Fargo Championship, celebrated his 29th birthday on Friday by matching his worst score at Quail Hollow with a 76, including three bogeys over the last five holes.
He was in the same spot as Woods, nine shots out of the lead.
“Struggled with my game, struggled to get my ball in the fairway, made some pretty bad mistakes, didn’t birdie any of the par-fives,” McIlroy said. “It just was one of those days where I just couldn’t get anything going.”
Mickelson wasn’t that wild — three bogeys, two birdies, another 72, and he made the cut with one shot to spare.
Wise, the former NCAA champion from Oregon, shot 32 on the back nine with three birdies over the last five holes. He made the turn and was looking to stay in the lead until a sloppy bogey on the par-5 seventh, the second-easiest at Quail Hollow.
The more daunting names on the leaderboard were right behind the final group of Malnati and Wise — Day (67) also was one shot behind, with Paul Casey (68) and former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (67) another shot back.
Langer sets course record
Bernhard Langer played his best round on the PGA Tour Champions in more than two years, shooting a course-record nine-under-par 63 at The Woodlands Country Club in Texas to take a three-stroke lead in the Insperity Invitational.
Seeking his first victory of the year after seven wins in 2017, the 60-year-old Langer birdied the first two holes and turned in 32. He added birdies on five of the next seven holes to get to nine under and distance himself from the field.
The German star won the Houston-area event in 2007 for the first of his 36 victories on the 50-and-over tour. He repeated as champion in 2008, its first year at The Woodlands, and won again in 2014.
The 63 was Langer’s best round since a 10-under 62 at the Chubb Classic in 2016, which he went on to win. Scott Dunlap and Jeff Maggert each shot 66 and were three shots back. Defending champion John Daly opened with a 72.
LPGA cuts event to 36 holes
The weather-delayed LPGA Texas Classic has been shortened to 36 holes after two days of rain.
The LPGA announced on Twitter that play began Friday after an 8 1/2-hour delay. Officials hope the tournament will be completed on Sunday.
The first round was postponed Thursday after only 34 of the 144 golfers completed one or two holes because of morning rain and afternoon wind.
The field features Moriya Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson, Jin Young Ko and Brittany Lincicome.