CHARLOTTE, N.C. – J.B. Holmes didn’t see it go in. The television cameras didn’t catch it, either.
But the thunderous cheer around the 15th green at Quail Hollow on Saturday made it clear Holmes had one of golf’s ultimate rarities: an albatross.
“Usually when it gets that loud you figure it went in,” Holmes said. “Still, from that distance it’s hard to get that ball in that little hole.”
The second 2 on a par 5 on the PGA Tour this year and the first in the Wells Fargo Championship’s nine-year history was part of Holmes’ 7-under 65. It allowed him to jump within six shots of leaderJonathan Byrd entering the final round.
“That’s the first one I’ve ever made,” said Holmes, who has had two holes-in-one. “It was nice to come in tournament play. Those are a lot harder to get than holes-in-one.”
The long-hitting Holmes ripped his tee shot more than 340 yards over the trees on 15, playing as the easiest hole on the course this week. But was a little concerned he may have been hugging the left side of the fairway a bit too much to have a good angle.
When he got there he was in better shape than he thought with an uphill lie from 215 yards. He asked for a 5-iron.
“We were talking about just trying to stay a little short of the hole,” Holmes said. “I put a really good swing on it, hit it right where I wanted to. It started just a touch left of the flag and cut back about 2 yards. It looked great the whole way.
“When you hit one like that you’re just hoping for it be up there around 4 or 5 feet. I saw it bounce and I thought when it the ground it could be a little bit long. But then everybody started cheering and I was like, ‘Did it really go in?”’
Alex Cejka had the other albatross on tour this year to open his first round, holing a 3-wood from the fairway on the 10th hole in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February. There were six on tour a year ago.
Holmes, who last won in 2008, followed it up by making a 25-foot birdie putt on 16 and then salvaged par on 18 after hitting his tee shot in the woods.
“I put myself in position for Sunday,” he said. “That’s all you can ask for.”
REMEMBERING SEVE: While several players and caddies wore black ribbons on their caps Saturday in memory of golf great Seve Ballesteros, Spain’s Sergio Garcia took it a step further by wearing all black to honor his countryman.
Garcia then slogged through a 2-over 74 that included a bogey-double-bogey finish hours after learning Ballesteros died after a nearly three-year bout with a cancerous brain tumor.
“It’s unfortunate and it’s difficult, but that wasn’t why I played so poorly,” said Garcia, who sits at 4-under. “I just hardly did anything great this week. But yeah, it’s a sad day.”
CBS analyst Nick Faldo, who dueled with Ballesteros in several tournaments, choked up on the air while talking about his former Ryder Cup teammate.
“I’m really touched by the guy,” Faldo said.
The PGA Tour announced it will suspend play for a minute at 3:08 p.m. EDT Sunday at Quail Hollow for a moment of silence in honor of Ballesteros.
CINK’S SUCCESS: Stewart Cink was asked after his 4-under 68 left him three shots off the lead how it felt to be in contention heading into a Sunday on the PGA Tour.
“It’s been a little while,” Cink acknowledged. “It’s fun to get out there and feel a little bit of a tension – not attention – but tension.”
When a reporter suggested perhaps both words would fit, Cink smiled.
“A little of both,” he said. “Yeah, it’s fun to be relevant in a tournament.”
Outside of his 2009 British Open win, not much has gone right for Cink on the golf course. The latest developments include tinkering with his swing.
“I think what I’ve done is I’ve built upon what I was doing that year up to Turnberry, which was pretty pathetic play,” Cink said. “If you look back at my year in 2009, Turnberry was great, but other than that it was one of the worst years of my career.”
Cink hasn’t won since and has no top-10 finishes this year.
“I wouldn’t say it’s coming together because it feels different every day,” he said. “Definitely the way I hit it today definitely could have easily been a 73 or 74. I turned that around into a 68 just by hanging in there and making some good decisions.”
ALL WET: The water finally did in Phil Mickelson.
After saving par three times after getting his ball wet over the first two rounds, Mickelson bogeyed 15 and double-bogeyed 17 after hitting shots into the water on Saturday. Mickelson’s 2-over 74 left him eight shots off the lead.
It was rare to see Mickelson plunge on the leaderboard in this event. He was runner-up at Quail Hollow a year ago and has five top-seven finishes in seven appearances. He’ll enter Sunday tied for 16th.
DIVOTS: Former Quail Hollow champion Anthony Kim (78) and Chad Campbell (80) were among the players to miss the 54-hole cut. … Morning fog forced a 90-minute delay at the start of the third round.