CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Phil Mickelson entered the final round of the Quail Hollow Championship thinking 11 under might give him his second straight victory.
The Masters champion did his part with a 4-under 68, but was blown away with Rory McIlroy’s course-record 62 that left Mickelson alone in second place, four shots back.
“I thought 11 under would have been a good score to post because the course was pretty challenging,” Mickelson said. “But 62 is one of the best rounds I’ve seen in a long, long time.”
Mickelson sank a 40-footer for birdie on 13, then birdied 14 to get within a stroke. But Mickelson’s hopes sank when he walked down the 15th fairway.
“I saw that he had eagled 15 and had started to pull away,” Mickelson said. “For him to win on the PGA Tour before his 21st birthday, I think it just sets his career off. … I’m happy for him that he was able to put together this great round. I’m sorry it was at my expense.”
Mickelson, who recovered from a stomach issue early in the week, plans some time with coach Butch Harmon before The Players Championship begins Thursday.
“I think after coming off such a great high as Augusta and taking a couple weeks off, you’re never really sure where your game’s going to be,” Mickelson said. “For me to play solid, get into contention and have a fun, good week, gives me some momentum.”
PHIL’S CRITICISM: Quail Hollow has enjoyed plenty of praise for its major-like feel, old-school layout and top field – which made Mickelson’s comments about the greens even more biting.
After telling his caddie to keep the flagstick in on 18 Saturday because he felt the hole location didn’t allow him to putt toward the cup, Mickelson said the greens “are some of the worst designed greens that we have on the tour.”
Added Mickelson: “I would say 18 is the worst on this Tour, but it’s not the worst on this golf course. Twelve is, and we have some ridiculous putts here.”
Quail Hollow Club president Johnny Harris responded to the criticism Sunday.
“I was sort of glad that he did it,” Harris said. “We have always tried to listen to the players and to the patrons and to the people that work here about how we can improve our product. I think Phil voiced something that he wouldn’t have said if he didn’t feel it.
“I look forward to listening to what he has to say and see if there’s not some things we can do to tweak the situation and improve it. We’ve always done that.”
Harris said they’ve already planned changes for next year, including eliminating the false front and the ripples on the back left on the eighth green. They’re also considering removing cedar trees on the right of the 18th fairway.
Harris said he plans to meet soon with Mickelson – who indicated he’s keeping the event on his schedule.
“I’ve come to really love and enjoy this golf tournament,” Mickelson said.
MAYFAIR’S LETDOWN: Billy Mayfair’s feel-good story ended with a flat final-round 76, ending his hopes of becoming the first Monday qualifier to win on the PGA Tour since 1986.
“Disappointing finish, but all around it was a great week,” he said.
Mayfair, who lost his exempt status after finishing 157th on the money list last year and hasn’t won since 1998, entered Sunday with a two-shot lead. But he ran into trouble early, including a double-bogey on the par-5 seventh.
He eagled the 14th, but his third shot on the 16th hit the lip of the bunker and stayed in. His double-bogey ended his chances of finishing in the top 10. He tied for 14th and collected $120,250.
“I have a lot more golf this year to try to keep my card,” Mayfair said. “It’s a learning experience.”
NEW NAME?: The tournament could soon have its third name.
The Wachovia Championship last year became the Quail Hollow Championship after Wells Fargo, which bought Wachovia, took the bank’s name off the event amid scrutiny following federal bailouts during the financial crisis.
Wells Fargo’s deal as title sponsor runs through 2014, and the company was more visible this year. Putting the name back on the event could come in 2011.
“I didn’t expect them to take their name off the event, so they fooled me before, but I can’t imagine that they don’t want to do something that involves their name with the event,” Harris said.
Harris said his only concern is confusing television viewers with another name change.
“It’s their call,” Harris said of Wells Fargo. “We look forward to embracing anything they want to do.”
Harris played coy about the future of the event past 2014, when the sponsorship deal and the contract with the PGA Tour runs out. Harris has had discussions about bringing a PGA Championship or Ryder Cup to Quail Hollow.
“There’s plenty of support as long as we can come up with the best way to attract the best players in the world to Charlotte,” Harris said. “We’ll dance with anybody.”
DIVOTS: The sold-out tournament didn’t see significant declines in weekend attendance despite Tiger Woods missing the cut. “All our indicators are up,” Harris said. “We’re up in food sales. We’re up in Bloody Mary mix sales. The merchandise tent seems to be way ahead of last year.” … Dustin Johnson bogeyed seven of his first eight holes, shot 77 and finished tied for 29th. … Rickie Fowler, 21, shot 67 Sunday while wearing all orange for his second straight top-10 finish. “Orange is the color of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. That’s where I came from,” he said. … Brendon de Jonge of Zimbabwe who now lives in Charlotte, shot 66 and finished fourth.