By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Webb Simpson knew he was going to be nervous. That's just his personality.
Simpson lives less than a mile from the Quail Hollow Club so he knew there would be plenty of friends in his gallery at the Wells Fargo Championship. But when Simpson found out he'd be playing with Tiger Woods during the first two rounds for just the second time in his career the nerves just intensified.
That's why those two birdies on his first three holes were so important. And when he holed a wedge for eagle at the par-4 eighth, Simpson was well within his comfort zone on the way to a 65 that left him tied for the lead with Ryan Moore and Stewart Cink.
"I just needed to calm down a little bit," Simpson said. "... By nature I want to do well for all the people that are there watching me and I think I put too much pressure on myself. Getting that pairing kind of enhanced it for me. But I was luckily -- once I made a couple birdies I kind of enjoyed it, kind of turned it around on me."
Simpson, who made the turn in 31, played so well he actually held sole possession of the lead until he missed the green at the 16th hole and made his only bogey of the day. He ended up beating Woods and his other playing partner, Geoff Ogilvy, by six strokes.
“I've played against Geoff for a very long time, and Webby I've gotten to know because of the Presidents Cup,” Woods said. “We had a good time out there, and Webby put up an unbelievable score, a hole out, a big old bomb there at 12. It was a good day. “
The three leaders are one stroke ahead of Rickie Fowler, D.A. Points, John Senden, Brian Davis and Patrick Reed on a day made for scoring with a 71.676 average for the field. World No. 2 Rory McIlroy, playing foor the first time since the Masters, finished with a round of 70 that included a bogey on his last hole.
"I think any time you get TOUR players playing in 90 degree weather with not much wind, it's naturally going to soften out the greens," Simpson said. "I think you've seen over the years, the hotter it is and the less wind there is, the scores are going to be really good, and I think that's what happened. They can't get the greens too firm with this weather. It'll just burn them out."
For Cink, the round of 65 was his best since he shot one stroke lower in the opening round of last year’s Crowne Plaza Invitational presented by Colonial. Interestingly, Cink's last top-10 finish on TOUR came last year at the Wells Fargo Championship.
"It's really good to shoot low rounds any time, but considering I haven't had very much success this year, just feels good to go out there and kind of piece it together and keep the momentum going for a whole round," Cink said. "I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm back or make some kind of statement like that. But it's still good to see something like this and give yourself a little bit of confidence."
Cink's driving was a bit erratic -- he only hit four fairways -- but he managed 13 of 18 greens in regulation and his putter was hot with just 24. He called the bogey-free 65, which included birdies on his last three holes a "successful" day.
"It wasn't a great round, far from perfect, but I had a few putts go in the hole and managed my misses pretty well, and I just tried to play it shot by shot and tried to keep myself from getting too emotionally involved with the round as it got going and as I got farther under par," Cink said. "... I wouldn't call it a superb round but it was a day where I went out and accomplished my goal of trying to stay in the moment and just trying to be myself out there."
Moore, who tied for fourth at Bay Hill in March and eighth in Texas two weeks ago, also birdied his last three holes. He had nine total while dropping two shots to par. He was extremely steady, too, hitting 11 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation, and the return to the putter he used last year paid dividends with just 26 strokes.
"It was really a good, solid round all day long," Moore said. "I just had a great finish. I hit it where I was trying to hit it all day long and made some good putts early in the round and made some great par savers on my first nine to kind of keep my momentum going. I played solid right into my back side and just had a great finish."