McIlroy headlines Quail co-leaders; Mickelson 1 back


With cool, damp conditions greeting players during Thursday's opening round at Quail Hollow, low scores were abundant despite the much-discussed condition of the greens. Here's the skinny heading into the second round of the Wells Fargo Championship, where Rory McIlroy headlines a large group atop the crowded leaderboard:

The leaderboard: Rory McIlroy (-5), Ryan Moore (-5), Nick Watney (-5), Robert Garrigus (-5), Derek Ernst (-5), Daniel Summerhays (-5), Nate Smith (-5), Phil Mickelson (-4)

What it means: Though the putting surfaces tended to give players fits, several were able to start their week with a fair share of birdies. None was more notable than McIlroy, the only player in this week's field ranked in the top 10, who once again finds himself among those in front in Charlotte, having won at Quail Hollow in 2010 and lost in a playoff here last year.

Round of the day: Faced with problematic putting surfaces, Moore found an ideal solution: create the maximum number of birdie putts possible. The UNLV grad hit each of the 18 greens in regulation Thursday, beginning his round with eight straight pars before notching five birdies in a seven-hole stretch from Nos. 9-15. The bogey-free 67 was the fifth sub-70 round at Quail Hollow since 2011 for Moore, who tied for fifth here a year ago.

Best of the rest: Like Moore, Watney started slowly and ended with a flourish. The veteran began his day on the 10th hole, and parred his way around the back nine before three straight birdies on holes 1-3. Watney added two more birdies coming in, grabbing a share of the lead with six others after a bogey-free 67.

Biggest disappointment: With a pair of top-five finishes at Quail Hollow since 2006, Bill Haas was among a short list of players expected to contend this week in Charlotte. Instead, the Wake Forest grad finds himself near the bottom of the field after a 7-over 79 that included a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 seventh hole. In addition to that 'other,' Haas carded five bogeys against just two birdies, and after one round sits ahead of just one player in the 156-man field.

Main storyline heading into Friday: With more calm conditions expected, a myriad of top-ranked players are in position to emerge from a crowded leaderboard. McIlroy and Mickelson are the most notable near the top, but players like Watney, Zach Johnson and former Wells Fargo champion Lucas Glover all find themselves either tied for the lead or within one shot of those setting the pace after one round. As was the case Thursday, players will be – challenged – by the various imperfections on the greens.

Shot of the day: Always a long hitter, Garrigus struck his tee shot 311 yards on the par-5 seventh Thursday, but found the fairway bunker lining the left side of the fairway. From there, he struck a bold approach from 217 yards, successfully attacking a pin perched just over a greenside water hazard. The ball rolled to within four feet of the hole, and the consequent eagle helped propel Garrigus to a share of the lead.

Quote of the day: 'I don't support the belly putter. I think it's bad for the game of golf.' – Padraig Harrington, who despite his post-round comments used a belly putter during Thursday's opening round, where he struggled to an 8-over 80.