After what sounded like an interesting reflection period for Rory McIlroy following his tough final round at Augusta last month, it was hard to know what to expect from the Northern Irishman in round one at the Wells Fargo Championship. Would there be noticeable, lingering effects, or would he quickly move past it? A first-round, three-under 68 at Quail Hollow Club, which has him three off the lead of John Peterson, and just one behind a group of five players tied for second, suggests it’s the latter.
McIlroy, who turns 29 in round two, began his opening round with a birdie at the par-5 10th hole and added two more at the 12th and 15th before dropping his first shot of the day at the par-4 18th to turn in two-under 34. The four-time Major winner got that shot back at the par-4 second, sticking his approach to nine feet and holing the putt. After giving another back at the par-3 sixth, McIlroy tallied one final birdie at the par-5 seventh, giving him a three-under mark on the par 5s for the round.
It was a far cry from his final-round 64 at Bay Hill earlier this season, but on a tough track, it got the job done and has McIlroy firmly in contention at a tournament where he is a two-time past champion. He toured just four fairways to card his 68, thanks in part to still hitting 14 greens and a solid day with a new putter that he put in the bag this week.
Geoff Ogilvy also showed signs of life in round one – and in a hurry. The 2006 US Open champion holed a 6-iron for eagle on the first hole and rose as high as five-under on the back nine before bogeys at the 13th and 16th holes saw him sign for a 68, the same score as McIlroy. Ogilvy has made only one cut so far in 2018 but has a solid record at Quail Hollow.
For now they are chasing Peterson, who produced one of the best finishes to a round on the US PGA Tour this season. Sitting at two-under through 15 holes, Peterson made back-to-back eagles at his 16th and 17th holes (Nos.7 and 8 at Quail Hollow). After holing out from a greenside bunker at the par-5 seventh, Peterson then knocked in his 94-metre approach shot for a 2 at the par-4 eighth. A par at the ninth finished off a six-under 65, putting him two shots clear of the field.
Five players are at four-under, including England’s Tyrrell Hatton, who also made an eagle 2 at the par-4 eighth. He’s joined by Kyle Stanley, Johnson Wagner, Peter Malnati and Keith Mitchell.
Keegan Bradley is also tied with McIlroy and Ogilvy at three-under, while Jason Day and Paul Casey are among the large group at two-under. Adam Scott, who is still yet to qualify for next month’s US Open, opened with a four-over 75.
Tiger Woods carded an even-par 71. Afterwards, he had this to say:
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 3, 2018