Daily Wrap-up: Wyndham Championship, Round 1August 15, 2013
By PGATOUR.COM wire services
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Chris Stroud doesn't want any rust in his game for the FedExCup Playoffs, which begin next week. Ross Fisher just wants to make it that far.
Stroud and Fisher each shot 6-under 64 on Thursday to share the first-round lead in the Wyndham Championship.
Eight players -- defending champion Sergio Garcia, Matt Jones, Robert Garrigus, Jordan Spieth, Trevor Immelman, Morgan Hoffmann, Patrick Reed and Andrew Svoboda -- shot 65.
John Senden and Stuart Appleby were among the five players at 66.
It was the highest score for an opening-round leader since the tournament returned to Sedgefield Country Club in 2008.
Stroud had eight birdies during his best round of the year, which came at the Donald Ross-designed course that had vexed him through the previous five years.
"I've even told people I love this golf course," Stroud said. "I have no idea why I don't play well here."
Stroud could've easily skipped this week and rested up for the FedExCup Playoffs. He arrived at No. 48 in FedExCup points and -- unlike so many other players here this week -- is assured of a spot in the FedExCup Playoffs.
Stroud has played this tournament every year since the crosstown move but made it to the weekend only once -- tying for 73rd last year.
After missing the cut at PGA Championship by a stroke, he said he "told my caddie, `I got to play next week.'
"I'm playing too well to go home and just sit and get rusty," Stroud said. "I said I want to get sharp for The Barclays. Let's go to Greensboro, low expectations since I haven't played that great here."
Those expectations might have been raised after a strong first round in which he made a quick charge up the leaderboard with three straight birdies.
The 31-year-old Texan, who started on the back nine, stuck his tee shot roughly 2 feet from the flagstick on the par-3 seventh and sank that putt to briefly move to 7 under.
He bogeyed the next hole after sending his tee shot into a water hazard, then pushed a 5-foot birdie putt wide on the par-4 ninth and settled for a par. That capped a round that was two strokes better than his six 66s this year, most recently last month at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
Fisher, a four-time winner on the European Tour who's a rookie on the PGA TOUR and at No. 162 in the FedExCup points standings, was in the day's final threesome to start on the back nine, and he made his climb late.
"My manager said, `You've got nothing to lose. Just go out there all guns blazing and see what happens,'" Fisher said. "I know what I've got to do, and I've just got to go enjoy it, and if it's meant to be, it'll happen. ... I don't want it to end here."
He eagled the par-5 fifth when he landed his approach shot about 7 feet from the flagstick and sank the ensuing putt, then joined Stroud at 6 under two holes later with a 30-foot birdie putt. He could have overtaken him, but missed a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 8 before pushing a 40-foot birdie putt a few inches wide on No. 9.
Garcia, who claimed a two-stroke victory here last year, hit 17 greens during his bogey-free round. He is trying to become the first player since Sam Snead in the 1950s to win this tournament in consecutive years.
"It was a great round today, but it's only Thursday," Garcia said.
The greens were a hot topic of conversation among the players. The putting surfaces are a year more mature after a 2012 conversion from bentgrass to Bermuda grass in an attempt to keep them firm and true to Ross' intent.
Stroud said the greens "roll like pool tables;" Garrigus compared their speed to those found in major tournaments; and Svoboda called them the fastest Bermuda greens he's ever played.
"It's unbelievable, the difference from where they used to be," Garrigus said. "It's very refreshing."
Some bubble players are trying to play their way into the top 125 in FedExCup points, which would earn them spots at The Barclays next week in New Jersey.
Peter Hanson, who at No. 126 was the consummate player on the bubble, gave himself a good push with a 68. Appleby, at No. 123, is in good shape with his strong round.
But No. 129 Padraig Harrington shot a 73 to put his FedExCup Playoffs fate in jeopardy. Immelman, at No. 148, needs a win to make it.
Jones, who is safe this year at No. 51, can relate. He finished 126th in 2009 and 127th two years ago after rough weeks at this tournament.
"I've definitely been there before," Jones said. "I know what they're going through. It's not a comfortable feeling."
Sedgefield Country Club: Round 1 Easiest hole Toughest hole
The par-5 fifth was the easiest with a Thursday scoring average of 4.538.
EAGLES: 3 | BIRDIES: 79 | PARS: 63 | BOGEYS: 9 | OTHERS: 2
The par-4 14th hole was the toughest with a Thursday scoring average of 4.321.
EAGLES: 0 | BIRDIES: 6 | PARS: 100 | BOGEYS: 44 | OTHERS: 6
About the leaders: Chris Stroud, Ross Fisher • Chris Stroud has made 14 of 22 cuts this season. He had a career-best finish this season at the Travelers Championship when he lost in a playoff to Ken Duke.
• Stroud entered this week No. 48 in the FedExCup standings. A win this week would move Stroud into the top 15 in the FedExCup standings.
• Stroud’s first start as a professional came via a sponsor invitation to the 2004 Wyndham Championship (T57). He then missed five straight cuts (2007-2011) in Greensboro before finishing T73 last year at Sedgefield Country Club.
• Stroud’s only other first-round lead came at the 2010 Children’s Miracle Network Classic (T7).
• Stroud is making his 189th start on TOUR. Ken Duke was making his 187th start on TOUR when he beat Stroud in the playoff earlier this season at the Travelers Championship. • Ross Fisher has made six of 14 cuts on TOUR this season. He missed his previous two cuts entering this week (FedEx St. Jude Classic and Reno-Tahoe Open). • This is Fisher’s first season on TOUR as a member. He gained membership by finishing T2 at the PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament. • Fisher has not previously held a lead on TOUR after any round in 51 career starts. His best finish on TOUR is fourth at the 2009 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. • Fisher played in the Ryder Cup in 2010 for the European Team that defeated the U.S.