Nick Watney strolls into Wells Fargo Championship lead

Woods misses the cut on a course giving up low scores

rgreenjr@charlotteobserver.comMay 4, 2012 

Two good things happened to Nick Watney on Friday.

He shot 64 in the morning at Quail Hollow Club that, combined with his first-round 68, staked him to a one-stroke lead over his friend and host this week, Webb Simpson, midway through the Wells Fargo Championship.

Watney’s second-round score also meant he didn’t have to take the trash out Friday night.

Here’s the deal:

While staying with Simpson this week, Watney and Ben Crane, who has rented a house 200 yards away, have a running wager: Whoever shoots the highest score each day is responsible for trash duty that night.

“Nick took it out (Thursday). I think Webb is on duty” Friday, said Crane, whose own 64 left him at 10 under, tied with Stewart Cink, D.A. Points and John Senden.

“(Simpson) has to take out the trash at his house. He said Wednesday is garbage day, but we’re going to put it on the curb” anyway.

That’s what friends are for.

Simpson, who is 11-under par through two rounds, grilled dinner for his friends Monday night and has to do his own chores because his second-round 68 looked liked leftovers compared to what his buddies did.

“So far it’s been a tough house,” Watney said.

Speaking of tough, Tiger Woods had another difficult day at Quail Hollow, shooting a 1-over 73 that included a lost ball. He finished at even par and, though the cut line nearly moved enough to save him late Friday, Woods missed the cut for the second straight time at the Wells Fargo Championship. He has played the weekend at Quail Hollow only once since his 2007 victory.

With his tie for 40th at the Masters, Woods’ first-round 71 at Quail Hollow is his only sub-par round in his past six rounds. He failed to birdie any of Quail Hollow’s four par-5 holes Friday and was granted a free drop when it was ruled a fan picked up his ball after he hit it into the trees left of the fifth green. His ball never was found.

“It’s frustration,” Woods said, when asked his feelings. “I finished, what, 12 back of the lead and I’m not playing the weekend where I have a chance to contend for a title. I’ve missed my share of cuts in the past and they don’t feel good.”

Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood snuck into the weekend on the number at 1-under 143, but defending champion Lucas Glover and Bill Haas were among those who missed the cut.

Watney has just one top-10 finish this year and missed the cut in New Orleans last weekend, hardly foreshadowing the way he’s played here. But he has missed just five greens in two days, made a handful of mid-range birdie putts and kicked in the odd long one like a 41-foot eagle putt he holed at the par-5 15th Friday.

“I think last week was a wake-up call for me, and I’ve worked really hard these five days leading into the event,” Watney said. “It just shows I’m making progress. Who knows what’s going to happen this weekend, but I’m really excited for it.”

Watney and Simpson will be paired together in the final group Saturday.

“It’ll be fun to go out with my roommate,” Simpson said.

Recently, Simpson and his caddie, Paul Tesori, had a heart-to-heart about their season. It’s been good – Simpson has three top-10 finishes in 10 starts – but not great. This could be the weekend when that changes, particularly if Simpson continues to putt as well as he has.

“He’s been struggling this year, almost too confident. Not in an arrogant way, but maybe the intensity hasn’t been as much as last year,” Tesori said. “It’s the highest confidence he’s ever had.”

After spending two days playing with Simpson, Geoff Ogilvy doesn’t expect him to back up this weekend.

“He got away with a few (loose shots Thursday), but (Friday) he played really well,” Ogilvy said. “He’s going to be right there at the end I think. He holes enough putts and he keeps the ball in play. He hits a lot of good shots.”

No one might have hit more good shots Friday than Crane, who strung together five consecutive 3s starting at the second hole, a stretch where he gained four strokes against par. It didn’t hurt, Crane said, that he holed a 40-yard pitch shot for an eagle at the par-5 fifth.

“I’m just looking at my scorecard going, ‘I had a lot of 3s today,’ ” said Crane, who missed the cut last week. “One of the best rounds I’ve played in a long time.”

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