CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After using five birdies and no bogeys to shoot below par for the seventh time in his past eight competitive rounds, Davis High graduate Nick Watney was one of seven players tied for the lead after the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship on Tuesday.
The former Blue Devil continued a hot streak that has seen him finish 15th, 13th and 27th in his last three tournament.
Watney played in the morning at Quail Hollow, shooting a 5-under 67 to join Ryan Moore, Robert Garrigus, Daniel Summerhays, Monday qualifier Nate Smith, PGA Tour rookie Derek Ernst and PGA Tour star Rory McIlroy at the top.
Playing in the afternoon, McIlroy kept the ball in play to run off six birdies in a seven-hole stretch around the turn. He joined the crowd in first place with an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 18.
It was the first time this year McIlroy has been atop the leaderboard after any round, and the first time he broke par in the opening round.
“Now that I feel like I’m swinging it well, this is the sort of golf I expect to play,” McIlroy said.
Phil Mickelson and Lucas Glover were in a large group at 68, with 19-year-old Jordan Spieth in another big group at 69.
The talk going into the Wells Fargo Championship was the shape of the greens. Two of the putting surfaces had to be entirely replaced by sod just a week ago — the 10th green had to be sodded twice — and the other greens were ragged. Some had ugly patches of brown where there was no grass.
But they weren’t as bad as players feared, and there wasn’t much public grumbling, mainly because Quail Hollow has a history of being in pristine shape and players seemed willing to accept this is an exceptionally bad year.
“It was fine,” Boo Weekley said after his 68. “First off, they were pretty smooth. It ain’t 100 percent, but I mean they’re good enough to play golf on.”
The bigger problem was cool, soft conditions that made Quail Hollow seem longer than usual. That’s why McIlroy was so pleased with missing only three fairways. The greens weren’t smooth, but they were soft enough that getting into position off the tee was pivotal in setting up birdie chances.