North Carolina - Twice major champion Angel Cabrera conjured up some of his old magic to
seize the first round lead with a six-under-par 66 in the first round of
the $6.9 million Wells Fargo Championship on Thursday.
The long-hitting veteran from Argentina reeled off four successive
birdies around the turn to end the day one stroke in front of Americans
Phil Mickelson and Martin Flores.
German Martin Kaymer, Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy and Englishman
Justin Rose are among a group of nine players a further two shots back
on an impressive leaderboard.
Cabrera, 44, has made few headlines since losing a playoff to Adam Scott
at last year's Masters but he is still capable of matching it with the
game's best on any given day.
"I played very well on the greens and saved myself on the holes that I
didn't play so well," Cabrera, whose only two PGA Tour victories came at
the highest level with the 2007 US Open and the 2009 Masters, told
He had two birdies and one bogey in the first five holes at Quail Hollow
before kickstarting his move up the leaderboard with a five-foot birdie
putt at the par-five seventh.
Cabrera then recorded four consecutive birdies from the ninth, three of
them from close range, along with a monster 42-foot putt from the fringe
at the 11th.
Kaymer, who had consecutive eagles in his round, was unable to remember even having previously notched the rare feat.
"I don't think I've ever done that before," said Kaymer, who sank a
15-footer at the seventh hole and then holed out from 65 yards from the
rough at the par-four eighth.
He considered his two eagles, which were bookended with bogeys, just reward for an otherwise frustrating day on the greens.
"I missed a lot of short putts today," he said. "I stayed in the
tournament but overall it would have been nice to get a couple more
shots here and there."
Kaymer was ranked No 1 in the world barely three years ago, but has since slipped to 63rd.
He has not been playing badly, missing only two cuts worldwide since
this event last year, but has not often contended for victory.
McIlroy, returning after a two-week post-Masters break, looked sharp apart from a couple of wayward drives.
"I gave myself chances for birdies and putted a little better than I
have in the last few weeks, so that's a positive," said the 2010
champion, who birdied three of the four par-fives.
"I played the par fives well, which I wanted to do (because) at Augusta I didn't."
This week's event has attracted a high-quality field, although not quite
as strong as it did in its first few years at Quail Hollow.
The course received rave reviews when the event was first held in 2003,
but the greens were in poor condition last year which perhaps scared off
a few players from returning.
The greens were subsequently dug up and replanted and early reports by
the players suggest they are in better condition this year.Leading first-round scores on Thursday in the $6.9 million US PGA Wells Fargo Championship (USA unless noted, par-72)
66 - Angel Cabrera (ARG)
67 - Martin Flores, Phil Mickelson
68 - Jonathan Byrd, Stewart Cink, Webb Simpson
- Shawn Stefani, Vijay Singh (FIJ), Martin Kaymer (GER), Kevin Na,
Charles Howell, Rory McIlroy (NIR), Hideki Matsuyama (JPN), Justin Rose
(ENG), Martin Laird (SCO)
70 - David Hearn (CAN), Scott Langley, Daniel Summerhays, J.B. Holmes, Brian Harman, Ryan Moore, Retief Goosen (RSA)
- Jim Renner, Brice Garnett, John Merrick, Gary Woodland, Jonas Blixt
(SWE), Brendon Todd, Danny Lee (NZL), Wes Roach, Will Wilcox, Bronson
La'Cassie (AUS), Bud Cauley, Roberto Castro, Michael Thompson, Zach
Johnson, Scott Brown, Lee Westwood (ENG), Chris Kirk, Jeff Overton, Troy
Merritt, Robert Streb, Ben Martin