Loupe, Wheatcroft take different paths to first-round lead
May 05, 2016
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Andrew Loupe is tied for the lead after the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE -- Following are a few observations from the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship, where Steve Wheatcroft and Andrew Loupe seized a one-stroke lead after shooting a pair of 65s on an unseasonably chilly and windy Thursday afternoon.
1. Andrew Loupe and Steve Wheatcroft played in the same group on Thursday but got to 7 under and the top of the leaderboard in very different ways.
Wheatcroft had the more adventurous round, making two eagles and playing the par 5s in 6 under. He had a total of five birdies and dropped just two shots to par in posting his 65.
"That's a first for me, I'm guessing," Wheatcroft said when asked about his success on the par 5s. "... I'm not the longest guy by any means, I'm very mediocre with my distance, but I usually find ways to play par 5s well when I score well."
The big-hitting Loupe, on the other hand, played Quail Hollow without making a bogey, even navigating the treacherous Green Mile, the 16th, 17th and 18th holes, in 1 under. He went out in 31, taking just nine putts on the front nine, and closed with a 34, carving out a total of seven birdies.
"We were laughing about his putting stats," Wheatcroft said. "It was goofy. He was pouring them in everywhere. We definitely did feed off each other. It's nice to see guys making birdies.
"When you look at the standard bearer sign it says 2, 3, 5 under, things like that it just kind of gets you in that mindset of making birdies. Where if you get in a group where guys are making pars and bogeys, you think the course is playing harder than it is."
Loupe, who ranked third in Strokes Gained: Putting, said he was just trying to keep up with Wheatcroft.
"He was pushing me all day," Loupe said. "We had a lot of fun out there. ... Hopefully we can just keep that going tomorrow."
Rory returns, Loupe and Wheatcroft lead
2. Rory McIlroy didn't have his "scoring head" on Thursday. At least until he made the turn in a up-and-down round of 73 that included nines of 40, on the back, his first of the day, and 36.
"I was thinking about my golf swing and just trying to make good swings at it and I sort of got caught up in that a little bit," the defending champion explained. "So I said to myself on the front nine, okay, let's try to play with a little more freedom and maybe not think so much technically, so it seemed to help.
"Need a bit of work on the range because I had a lot of misses left. I need to sort of sort that out. Happy with the come back."
Prior to Wednesday's pro-am, McIlroy said he'd only played a total of 18 holes since the Masters, where he tied for 10th. He had been hitting the range, though, making a few tweaks to get his swing on plane again.
"It's always different when you get a scorecard in your hand and it really matters," McIlroy said. "... I didn't feel like I did that much wrong, but you don't have to on this golf course for it to punish you."
McIlroy's two wins at Quail Hollow have come in decidedly different manners so he knows better than to get too frustrated. He made the cut on the number in 2010, then shot 66-62 on the weekend to pick up up his first TOUR win. A year ago, the 27-year-old romped to a seven-stroke victory that included a course-record 61 on Saturday.
"I'm happy with my comeback, and at least I showed a little bit of character out there and didn't let it get away from me," McIlroy said. "Giving myself an opportunity to go out there tomorrow and shoot a good number and try to get myself back into contention."
3. All-in-all, Jim Furyk couldn't be too disappointed in the 73 he shot Thursday at the Wells Fargo Championship. After all, it was his first competitive round since Sunday at last year's Deutsche Bank Championship, a span of seven months.
Furyk has been sidelined by a wrist injury that required surgery in February. The unexpected time at home in Ponte Vedra Beach with his wife and two children was a bonus but at the same time, he missed the competition.
"I missed being out here, the camaraderie, saying hello to everyone," Furyk said. "The gun went off this morning and I felt unusually calm. I expected to be very nervous but I felt very calm on the 10th tee. It was surprising but it was a good feeling."
Furyk made two birdies, a bogey and a double bogey on Thursday. He called it a "solid" start, adding that "it will put me in good position to go try to fire a good number tomorrow" in hopes of making the cut.
And after 73 blows, Furyk said his wrist held up pretty well.
"I've got no pain, no apprehension, but I can't hit a lot of golf balls," Furyk said. "I can't go out and practice and beat a ton of balls. I'm going to go to the range after we speak and maybe limit it to 10 or 15 balls.
"I don't enjoy hitting balls, so actually it's kind of fun."Getty Images
4. Phil Mickelson has done everything but win the Wells Fargo Championship. He's played in the tournament 12 times and walked away with a tournament record eight top-10 finishes, including six of fifth or better.
So to say Quail Hollow owes the popular left-hander might be an understatement. And he's off to another strong start with a 69 on Thursday that left him four strokes off the lead.
"I've played it well and I feel as though if ... I'll give myself chances on the weekend ... eventually I'll break through and win here because I've been in contention too often," Mickelson said. "I like the golf course too much to not eventually win here."
In fact, the only tournament where Mickelson has posted more top-10s without a victory is the U.S. Open. He's had 10 in that major championship but unlike the Wells Fargo Championship, it's played on a different course every year.
Mickelson was pleased by his round on Thursday but at the same time, he says "I know I can hit it a lot better than I did today." He likes the way he's been hitting the ball in practice, and he prefers to dwell on those three top-10s in his first six starts of the year rather than the last two missed cuts.
"I'm just kind of brushing them off because those two crazy rounds that I had happened to follow my two best warm-up sessions of the year," Mickelson said. "Sometimes those things happen. ...
"In fact, I was hitting it a lot better this past week than I showed today and I feel as though these next three days I can strike it a lot better, play a lot better and shoot lower scores than I did today, and I'm not disappointed with today's round."
CALL OF THE DAY
Phil Mickelson holes lengthy putt for birdie at Wells Fargo
Free play-by-play coverage of the second round streams from 12-6 p.m. ET Friday on PGATOUR.COM
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Phil Mickelson's beautiful chip is the Shot of the Day
Really happy with my round today. The first time 18 months I've felt really comfortable with the putter. Went back to my old stroke & stance— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) May 5, 2016