Thursday, May 05, 2011


Defending champion Rory McIlroy got off to a slow start in defence of his Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow. He returned a three-over-par 75.
But even that was three shots better than Martin Laird's nightmare start of 78 .. a chapter of errors total he shared with Englishman Paul Casey.
Laird, the leading money-winner on the US PGA Tour this season, bogeyed the first, third, fourth and sixth before he had an eagle 3 at the seventh. But another bogey popped up at the ninth to put the Glasgow man out in three-over 39.
He bogeyed the 10th, birdied the long 15th but bogeyed the 17th. A double bogey 6 at the last put the tin hat on it for Laird.
Casey birdied the first and fifth but had eight bogeys, including the last three holes in a row.
McIlroy bogeyed the first and the last ... and a few in between.
The substantial rounds by European golfers came from Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia, who each carded a 69, the same mark as Phil Mickelson. Garcia has started well in his three previous US PGA Tour events this year.
The challenge for him is to pick up the pace on the final two days to chase down automatic qualification for the US Open. Garcia, who started the week as the world No 72, needs to leap 22 places in the next three weeks to avoid submitting to the qualification process.
Garcia has played in every major since making his debut at Carnoustie in 1999, a total of 47. Congressional will be the richer for his presence.
Martin Kaymer, who will reclaim the world No 1 spot with a win in South Carolina, carded a 70, the same score as Brian Davis, the unheralded Englishman on the US Tour,  to sit one behind Harrington and Garcia.
Justin Rose came in with a 71 - to be seven shots behind the leader, Bill Haas with an eight-under-par 64 over the 7,442yd course.

Par 72
Players from US unless stated
64 Bill Haas.
66 Jonathan Byrd, David Toms.
67 Lucas Glover, Pat Perez.
68 Stuart Appleby (Australia), Carl Pettersson (Sweden).
Selected scores:
69 Padraig Harrington (Ireland), Sergio Garcia (Spain), Phil Mickelson.
70 Martin Kaymer (Germany), Brian Davis (England).
71 Justin Rose (England).
72 Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Rory Sabbatini (S Africa), Edoardo Molinari (Italy).
75 Rory McIlroy (N Ireland), David Duval.
78 Martin Laird (Scotland), Paul Casey (England).



CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (AP) — Of all the times Bill Haas has played Quail Hollow, he never had a round quite like this.
Haas had stress-free birdies on all the par 5s and did little wrong on the rest of the holes Thursday in the Wells Fargo Championship, matching the tournament record for lowest opening round with an 8-under 64 for a two-shot lead.
"I've got good feelings around this place," Haas said.
It was his best score by four shots at Quail Hollow on the US PGA Tour, and way better than two dozen rounds he played as a kid when he would tag along with his father, Jay Haas, on the special trips they made to the course.
Haas had a two-shot lead over David Toms and Jonathan Byrd, who each had a 66 in the morning when it was barely above 40 degrees at the start of the tournament with a north wind that is uncommon for this tournament.
Ultimately, the afternoon turned out to be perfect - much like Haas and his round.
He did have a few key par saves, such as the 10-foot putt he made at the turn on the 18th hole. The key for Haas, though, was getting off to a good start on the slightly tougher back nine, and knowing he could afford to make a few mistakes.
Defending champion Rory McIlroy made some errors early, and he never quite caught up. In his first trip back to America after his Sunday collapse in the Masters, the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland opened with a 75.
"The story of the day for me is I really didn't hit it very well, which is unlike me," McIlroy said. "It'd be the strength of my game and today I just wasn't striking it well. My timing was off just a little bit."
Pat Perez and Lucas Glover were at 67, while Rickie Fowler overcame a rugged start - two bogeys on his opening three holes - to lead a group at 68 that included Vijay Singh and Stuart Appleby.
Phil Mickelson, in his first event since the Masters, hit two balls in the water on par 5s and scrambled for par each time. The first one was critical. He already was 1 over for the tournament through six holes when he came out of the pine straw and into the pond at No. 7. He holed a 12-foot par putt, then made birdie on the next four holes.
He wound up with a 69, along with Padraig Harrington.
"I hadn't played in a few weeks, and to shoot under par was a good start," Mickelson said. "It could have been a lot better, could have been a lot worse. I'll certainly take it."
The cold air made Quail Hollow play even longer in the morning, and it was particularly tough on the guys who don't blast it. Toms fits into that category, which explains why he had to hit fairway metals for his second shot on three par 4s. The good news is he made par on all of them, and threw in seven birdies for a 66.
"It was cold this morning, and we were all out there with our jackets and sweaters on and playing these long par 4s," Toms said. "If I can shoot 3 under on the front nine, as long as it played, I'll take that any day."
Toms won the first edition of this tournament in 2003.
Byrd rarely plays well here. Except for a tie for fifth a few years ago, he missed the cut in his other five appearance. He almost thought about skipping the Wells Fargo Championship, except that it's close to his South Carolina roots.
"It's pretty odd," said Byrd, who opened the year with a play-off win at Kapalua. "If it wasn't close to home, I might start saying, 'I just don't play well there, I need to go home.' But my family is close to home here in Columbia, South Carolina, and it's not far from Clemson. They just knock it out of the park at this golf tournament, and it's a tournament I can't miss."Haas wouldn't miss it, either - not now, certainly not as a kid. He grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, although his father was a member and they often made the 90-mile drive to Quail Hollow.
"My dad would say, 'Let's go play Quail tomorrow.' It was a bigger deal than just playing at home," he said.
Haas figures he played some 30 rounds here before turning pro. He also has good memories of the times he played the tournament with his father, older brother (Jay Jr.) and his uncle (Jerry Haas).
Even so, nothing compares to playing and making so many birdies.
Haas opened his round with a 3-wood onto the 10th green for a two-putt birdie, and a 7-iron to 15 feet on the 12th, which played as the second-toughest hole in the opening round. Then came a 30-foot birdie on the 14th, and an easy up-and-down from the front bunker on the par-5 15th for a birdie.
He knew birdie chances awaited on the front with two par 5s, and he made birdie there, too.
Haas tinkered with a belly putter at Hilton Head a few weeks ago because the greens are flat. He was back to a conventional putter on the contoured greens of Quail Hollow, and wound up making his share of them.
"Putted well," he said, "which leads to everything."



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