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Crowded at the Top of Wells Fargo Championship


On an unseasonably cool, damp and overcast day in Charlotte, N.C., several players carded 5-under 67s to take a share of the opening-round lead in the Wells Fargo Championship. The $6.7 million PGA Tour event started Thursday at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C.

The players atop the leaderboard are Ryan Moore, Nick Watney, Robert Garrigus, Derek Ernst, Rory McIlroy, Daniel Summerhays and Nate Smith.

Another stroke back are Boo Weekley, Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, Lucas Glover, Kevin Streelman and Jason Kokrak.

Moore, the 2009 winner of the tournament when it was called the Wyndham Championship, could have gone even lower had it not been for the 31 putts he needed. "It was a really good ball-striking day for me," Moore told PGATour,com.

"(I) just gave myself opportunities all the way around," added the Tacoma native, who carded five birdies on the stretch between the ninth and 15th holes. "Obviously, I wasn't able to convert all of them, but I made enough to keep some good, positive momentum throughout the round and just really carried it through the back side."

McIlroy, who with D.A. Points lost on the first sudden-death playoff hole to Rickie Fowler last year at Quail Hollow, hit his stride on the par-5 fifth. At that juncture, the Northern Irishman, who turns 24 Saturday, reeled off four straight birdies before finishing the front nine with a bogey on the par-4 ninth to make the turn in 3-under 33.

The two-time major winner birdied Nos. 10 and 11 before a bogey at the 12th. Following five straight pars, McIlroy - who logged his first PGA Tour title in Charlotte in 2010 (then called the Quail Hollow Championship) after closing with a course-record-setting 10-under 62, polished off his round with a birdie on the last.

"I thought the course could play a little better than 5-under," he said at greenside. "But this course is tough."

Smith, a 29-year-old from Santa Monica, Calif., and a PGA Tour rookie this year after advancing through Q-School, had the solo lead at 6-under through 16 holes, but bogeyed the par-3 17th before closing with a par to gain a share of the top spot.

Mickelson, who hasn't teed it up in competition since the Masters in mid-April, was pleased with his first time back in three weeks. "Early in the morning when it was a little colder and there was a little drizzle and wind, it was difficult," Mickelson told PGATour.com. "As that went away, the scores got a lot easier. This is a great golf course in that there are some really good, easy birdie holes, and there are some really hard pars.

"Fortunately, when it was tough conditions, I played the harder holes and I was able to make pars and had the opportunity on the easy holes to make birdies. But this is a great mixture of holes here."

Two strokes out of the lead are Canada's David Hearn, Sweden's Robert Karlsson, Australians Rod Pampling and Steven Bowditch, and Americans George McNeill, Jordan Spieth, John Rollins, Russell Henley and Shawn Stefani.

Fowler got off to a so-so start in defense of his title, shooting an even-par 72 that included three birdies and a like number of bogeys.

Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington had a desultory outing. The 41-year-old Irishman, whose last victory came in the 2008 PGA Championship, opened with an 8-over 80 that included nine bogeys and a lone birdie that put him at the bottom of the leaderboard.

Erik Compton self-imposed a two-shot penalty which turned what could have been a 72 into a 74. On the seventh hole, the 33-year-old drove into a pond on the par-5, then took a drop for his third shot, which he hit onto the green. When he got to the green he realized he'd hit a different model of ball, a violation of Rule 33 and the one-ball condition that requires a player to use the same brand and model of golf ball. Instead of a par five, Compton took a double-bogey seven.

Nine players withdrew before the start of the tournament. The group includes David Toms, Jeff Overton, Mark Wilson, Freddie Jacobson, Dustin Johnson, Ian Poulter, Vijay Singh, Ben Crane and Retief Goosen.

For complete scoring details, visit http://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html.