reporting from charlotte, n.c. — Billy Mayfair's last tournament win still earns him a note of recognition in golf annals as the only man to defeat Tiger Woods in a PGA Tour playoff.
That was in 1998. Now the 23-year veteran can earn another annotation if he can hold on through one more round of the Quail Hollow Championship and become the first Monday qualifier in 24 years to hoist the trophy.
"I'm trying not to think about it," Mayfair said Saturday after a one-under-par 71 widened his lead to two shots over Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III. "But obviously [when] you put yourself in this position, you want to take advantage of it."
Fred Wadsworth was the tour's last victorious Monday qualifier, at the 1986 Southern Open. Mayfair began his week with a 65 at Carolina Country Club, where he teed off maybe 45 minutes after his flight from Atlanta touched down.
"When you start [making putts], it gives you some confidence," Mayfair said, "and I just tried to keep that confidence going."
He will need that confidence for one more round, as a crowded chase pack tries to reel him in.
Though Mayfair stands two shots clear of the field at nine-under 207, there are 10 golfers no more than four back. That includes Mickelson, playing his first event since winning the Masters, and fellow 2010 tournament winners Anthony Kim, Jim Furyk and Dustin Johnson.
"There's a lot of guys right there," said Johnson, three shots back along with Angel Cabrera and J.J. Henry. "The guy that's going to come out and get off to a good start and plays well is going to win."
A lot has transpired in Mayfair's 345 starts since his last victory, at the 1998 Buick Open. It was his second of the season, paired with his playoff triumph over Woods. Mayfair fired a closing 67 at Valencia Country Club, then birdied the first extra hole.
While Mayfair played the 14h hole Saturday, CBS showed a graphic stating that he had taken 79,350 strokes since his last victory. Does the 43-year-old, who had surgery for testicular cancer four years ago, remember what it feels like to win?
"Well, I won Monday in the qualifier," he deadpanned. "I won the Friday game at [home club] Whisper Rock a few weeks ago. I beat my wife last Saturday, too, even though I had to give her a whole bunch of shots.
"No, I don't think you ever lose that feeling, even though it's been a long time."
Mickelson might have been closer, but an uncharacteristic poor flop shot led to bogey at the par-three 17th. Just off the green after his tee shot, his attempt came down well short of its target and never rolled toward the flag.
"That hole is feast or famine," Mickelson said. "Either you hit the green or you're going to make bogey."