Pekin, Ill. native and former Illini golfer D.A. Points is one stroke off the lead heading into Sunday's final round of the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte. On Sunday, he'll be trying to win for the first time since he prevailed last year at the Pebble Beach pro-am playing alongside amateur partner, comedian Bill Murray.
Points shot a bogey-free 3-under par 69 Saturday at the Quail Hollow Club and is in a two-way tie for second with Ryan Moore (4-under 68) at 13-under par through 54 holes. Both players are one shot behind Webb Simpson, who also shot 69 on Saturday and took the lead with a birdie on the par 3 17th.
"The fans were great," Points said afterward. "Everybody is really encouraging and consoling, rooting me on, which is a great feeling. That's what you want when you're out here. I didn't make all the putts that I wanted to, but still, no bogeys. I had a chip-in [on the first hole]. I really didn't do a whole lot wrong other than miss a couple of very make-able putts. Hopefully, more of the same [Sunday] and we'll see how it plays out."
After fulfilling his media obligations, Points said he was heading for the putting green in the hope of fine tuning his stroke in preparation for the finale.
"I hit some good shots and gave myself some good chances at birdie," Points said. "And when I did hit a good putt, I didn't have the right line, and when I had a close, make-able one, I'd make a lousy stroke. Just a little lack of confidence. But the good thing is I still haven't had that one really great putting round where I've made everything. Maybe that can be tomorrow and I can still win this thing."
Points can be an emotional player, one whose mood darkens on the course when he makes a few poor shots. When he won at Pebble Beach, Murray and his antics helped lighten Points' mood and distract him during high pressure stretches of the final round, something he said helped him win. He said he plans to try something similar on Sunday.
"I'm going to try to spend more time talking to the crowd, kind of like Bill would do, and also talk to my wife and her family, [who are] here," Points said. "I'll try to distract myself in other ways. Obviously, I won't have Bill per se, but I'll try to maybe use some of that tactic."
At the top of the leaderboard, Simpson, who's a member at Quail Hollow and lives in the neighborhood, finds himself with nine players within four shots of him. Tied at 12-under are 2010 champion Rory McIlroy, who had a third-round 66, and Nick Watney, who shot even par 72 after taking the second round leading. Watney and his wife are Simpson's house guests this week. Another stroke back at 11-under are former British Open champ Stewart Cink, who's suddenly burst out of a season-long slump, and Rickie Fowler, who'll be wearing his customary Sunday "juice" orange outfit while pursuing his first PGA Tour win.
Meanwhile, 2006 John Deere Classic champion John Senden is in a three-way tie at 10-under with fellow Aussie and former U.S. Open champ Geoff Ogilvy and this year's Puerto Rican Open champ George O'Neill. Senden's fortunes took a turn for the worse when he double-bogeyed the 17th after his tee shot found the water. After opening the day with birdies on the first and second holes, Senden finished at even par for round three.
Simpson pointed to his putting and mental approach as his strong points this week.
"I haven't made one what I consider a mental mistake, and I made 10 last week in New Orleans, or maybe more than that," Simpson said. "...And I think that's where the local knowledge has helped me, especially around the greens, knowing where to miss certain shots. You've just got to kind of plod around this course. That's why you've seen guys like Furyk play really well here. You've just got to think really well and I've been able to do that, fortunately."
Thinking well, hitting it well, putting it well...It'll take all that and more to win on such a challenging yet score-able golf course.