(Reuters) - Jason Day needed to get his feet wet at the final hole to salvage a four-under-par 67 and take a two-stroke lead after the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina on Saturday.
The Australian took off his shoes and socks and stood in a small creek to play a shot to the green at the 18th before coming through with a par putt to stand at 10-under 203, two strokes ahead of Nick Watney (66).
Tiger Woods, who has struggled with his putting this week, was nine strokes off the lead after a 68 while Rory McIlroy rebounded from his 76 on Friday by going 10 strokes lower to sit seven off the lead.
Day struggled to get going but four birdies in six holes on the back nine saw him break free of the pack.
“It was a bit of a struggle through eight holes,” the former world number one told CBS television.
“Then a nice shot into the ninth hole for a tap-in birdie and a good drive down 10 kind of really started getting things in the right direction.”
Rookie Aaron Wise had tracked Day for most of the afternoon but bogeys on two of his last three holes dropped him into a tie for third with Peter Uihlein, who narrowly missed the course record with a nine-under 62, Bryson DeChambeau (66) and Englishman Paul Casey (69).
Phil Mickelson also took advantage of the softer greens to shoot a seven-under 64 and move into 10th at five-under 208.
Woods picked up six birdies to reach one-under 212 but finished the round on a sour note with a three-putt bogey on 18.
The former world number one had moved to four under with three consecutive birdies from the 13th.
“I was so close to shooting about seven, eight-under today,” he told reporters. “I still didn’t have enough pace on a couple that I left on the lip.
“I’m close, I’m hitting the ball well enough to contend, to win this golf tournament, but I just haven’t made putts.”
Uihlein had five consecutive birdies from the fifth, an eagle at 10 and added two more birdies at the 14th and 15th as he missed McIlroy’s 2015 Quail Hollow record by one shot.
“The way the golf course was set up today it felt like you could get after it a bit,” he said. “It played a little easier than it did the first two days.”
McIlroy, at three-under 210, had four birdies in a row before also bogeying the last.
“I’m just not that comfortable with anything right now,” McIlroy told Golf Channel. “I’m trying really hard to hit it in the fairway and then trying really hard to get my irons on line. It’s all just a little bit of a struggle.”
Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford