GOLF: 3-way tie at Wells Fargo event
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Webb Simpson was nervous playing in the same group with Tiger Woods. It sure didn’t show Thursday in the Wells Fargo Championship.
Simpson chipped in from 35 yards in front of the par-4 eighth green for eagle, and then made Woods shake his head and smile when he holed a 60-foot birdie putt that might have rolled off the 12th green if the cup didn’t get in the way. It led to a 7-under 65 for a share of the lead Thursday with Stewart Cink and Ryan Moore.
“I was nervous playing with Tiger. I prayed a lot out there,” said Simpson, who lives about a mile away from Quail Hollow and already was on edge about trying to perform well for the neighbors. “Once I made a couple birdies, I kind of enjoyed it.”
There was a lot to like for just about everyone on a steamy day in Carolina. With temperatures pushing 90 and barely a breeze, scoring conditions were so ideal that even par was over the cut line going into the second round. The average score was 71.72, the lowest for the first round in the 10-year history of the tournament.
Woods failed to take advantage. In his first tournament since a tie for 40th at the Masters – his worst performance as a pro at Augusta National – he made too many mistakes early and had to one-putt three of the last four greens for a 71.
“I’ve got to obviously not make those little mistakes like that tomorrow,” Woods said. “We’ve got a long way to go, and we’ve got some rain coming probably on the weekend, so we’re going to have to go get it.”
So many others did just that, including Cink, who has been mired in a slump. He ended an already solid day with three straight birdies, holing a 20-foot putt on the ninth for his lowest round of the year. Moore also birdied his last three holes.
Rickie Fowler, still searching for his first PGA Tour win in his third full season, led a group of five players at 66 that included Patrick Reed, the 21-year-old from Augusta State who has Monday qualified to get in the last two tournaments.
Phil Mickelson recovered from a tee shot that went out-of-bounds and led to triple bogey and shot 71. Rory McIlroy, who earned his first PGA Tour win at Quail Hollow two years ago by closing with a 62, birdied three of the par 5s but three-putted from 18 feet on the 18th hole and had to settle for a 70.
Fowler led the parade of good scoring in the morning with a round of 66 that was so flawless he never came close to a bogey. He had a birdie putt on all but one green, and the longest putt he had for par was 4 feet. He hit 6-iron to the front pin – a tiny target – on the par-5 seventh hole for an eagle, then birdied three of his last four holes.
Fowler has become a fan favorite, especially with young kids in their orange attire, but he still doesn’t have what matters. Fowler is not nearly as concerned as everyone else about his 0-71 mark on the PGA Tour. He won the Korea Open last year by beating McIlroy, and he feels as though his game is headed in the right direction.
“I feel that I’m good enough to win,” Fowler said. “I definitely feel like the amount of people expecting or thinking that I can win is a compliment. I’m not too worried about the talk that goes on about when my first win is coming, but it’s my main goal, and that’s what I’m focused on.”