Recap of the day
Morning wave: Quail Hollow staged a major championship less than two years ago and the morning scoring showed why. This was tough, no-one beating 67 as the winds swirled. The four to manage best were Adam Schenk, Martin Laird, Patrick Reed and Nick Taylor with 4-under-par rounds while defending champ Jason Day finished just a shot back alongside Brian Harman, who won the 2017 edition of this event at Eagle Point.
Afternoon wave: It looked as if 4-under would be an impregnable barrier. But then came Rory McIlroy. The two-time Wells Fargo winner is famous for his charges at Quail Hollow and produced another today. Even par after nine, Rory stormed to the front with a rush of birdies coming home to set the new mark. He was joined later by Thursday specialist (see Focus On) Joel Dahmen, who drained a 14-footer for birdie at the tough 18th to tie. Dylan Frittelli widened the bunch on 4-under with two late birdies in a 67.
Revised betting: 15/8 McIlroy, 7/1 Day, 14/1 Reed, 20/1 Simpson, 22/1 Rose, Casey, 25/1 Fowler, Garcia, 28/1 Dahmen.
Friday weather forecast
It’s another nice day in the mid-80s but there’s a chance of an early t-storm at around 10am. The threat remains as the day continues so there could be the odd interruption. Winds are light at around 6-7mph although can swirl so remain challenging.
Leaders after 18 holes
Rory McIlroy (66) – A round in two acts. Even par to the turn and then birdies at 10, 11, 14, 15 and 16. Gained nearly four strokes on approach and over two with the putter. Rory’s love affair with Quail Hollow grows deeper.
Joel Dahmen (66) – Three birdies in the first seven holes laid the foundations and he added further circles at 15 and 18 to slightly compromise the Rory story. Hit 15 greens and saved par on the three he missed.
Adam Schenk (67) – Outpaced five red circles with two bogeys on his opening nine (the back) and then pars all the way home until a walk-off birdie. Solid stats across the board.
Martin Laird (67) – Made a mess of the par-3 13th, his fourth hole of the day, but wiped out that double bogey, and then some, with birdies on the three par 5s and two further red numbers. Missed just one fairway.
Patrick Reed (67) – A clean card and a clearer mind for Reed (see Focus On). Just a single birdie over his first 11 holes, another at 3 and two more in his final three. Hit 14 greens and gained just under three strokes with the putter.
Nick Taylor (67) – Pelted 14 greens in the right number so iron play was stellar. Five birdies against a long bogey.
Fate of the favorites
Rory McIlroy – See above
Jason Day (68) – Five birdies against two bogeys and one of those was a six on the par-5 7th after a wet tee ball. Ranked 1st SG: Tee To Green but negative SG: Putting. Shot R1 69 when winning last year so ahead of schedule!
Justin Rose (70) – Birdied two of his first three holes and took advantage of the obvious opportunities at 14 and 15 but Quail Hollow hit back with three back-nine bogeys. Hit just five fairways.
Rickie Fowler (71) – Put it in reverse early with bogeys at 2 and 5 but got them back on 12 and 14. Found both 10 fairways (good) and 10 greens (not so good).
Rory McIlroy (66): “I think I got the most out of my round. I always think that if you can get through these first six holes. Responded well with some good play on the back nine. I’ve got so many special memories here. And, it’s a home course, I’m a member here which is very nice. It’s a place I’m just very comfortable at.”
Patrick Reed (67): “I stopped thinking about the golf swing and just started swinging the golf club and played golf shots. From that point I was able to go out and put the ball from point A to point B pretty well and make some putts.”
Jason Day (68): “You’ve got to be careful with that wind today because it is moving around a little bit but, overall, very pleased with the opening. It’s a major championship golf course but the conditions of the golf course are a lot better this year than they were last year. You can’t leave yourself above the pin here. It’s a golf course where you have to stay very, very patient on. You can’t push out here, especially with how firm things are.”
Justin Rose (71): “It was hard to shoot a really low round. I didn’t hit enough fairways to have a great opportunity to go any lower than I did.”
Phil Mickelson (71): “My game feels a lot better than my score today. I shot even par today, it was kind of a lethargic, lazy, unexciting round. Hit a lot of greens and didn’t make any putts, I had a couple of three-putts. I came in here fresh, I had two weeks off and I think the next three days it’s going to get better.”
Road to victory at Quail Hollow
2018 Jason Day – R1: 17th, R2: 2nd, R3: 1st
2017 Played at Eagle Point
2016 James Hahn – R1: 17th, R2: 13rd, R3: 3rd
2015 Rory McIlroy – R1: 30th, R2: 5th, R3: 1st
2014 J.B. Holmes – R1: 16th, R2: 4th, R3: 1st
Notes: Rory famously came from the cut line to win here with 66-62 on the weekend in 2010. He was seven back after day one. Catch-up is certainly possible and McIlroy was also five back after R1 when taking the title for a second time in 2015. The last two winners of this event at Quail – Day and Hahn – were both T17 after round one while Justin Thomas was T44 and six back before going on to win the 2017 PGA here. In other words, don’t be worried if your pick is four, five or even six strokes in arrears. It’s a marathon not a sprint works well as a motto at Quail Hollow.
Fate of the 18-hole leaders at Quail Hollow – where did they finish?
Notes: First-round leaders tend to have mixed fortunes here with three of the last five finishing T30 or worse but the other two using their strong starts to carve out a top four. Just two 18-hole pacesetters have gone on to win – Jim Furyk in 2006 and Derek Ernst in 2013. Tiger led by two here in 2009 but had to settle for fourth.
Focus on – Patrick Reed
It was no surprise to see Reed fail to do much at Augusta National (T36) as Masters champions tend to struggle the following year when defending. But who would have thought he’d have gone there without a single top ten to his name this season? Reed has been working with famed coach David Leadbetter and feels the fruits of their labor are now starting to show. After his 67 today, Reed said: “I think the biggest thing is starting from last week, once I got to last week it was, okay, we've done the work technically, now it's just go out and when I get to the golf course instead of always trying to play golf swing, play golf shots and be an athlete. I feel like the swing has been in probably the best position that the golf club has been in, it's just now timing it up. I feel like that's the part that I was missing in the past and now I feel like I'm back kind of being who I am and being a golfer and playing.” And that makes him dangerous for the next major. We’re just two weeks away from the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black and Reed has history there having won The Barclays at the New York venue in 2016.
Focus on – Joel Dahmen
Here’s a good quiz question if you’re a stats nerd. And, come on, that applies to a lot of us. Which player on the 2019 PGA Tour held the first-round lead three times in six starts, shooting a round of 66 each time. The answer: Joel Dahmen. On the first occasion, he had to settle for T30 at the Valspar Championship but the second time, at the Corales Puntacana, Dahmen took T12. Thursday pacesetters have had a mixed time here but at least the 31-year-old is getting used to sleeping on a first -round lead. Can he ride it to a top five or better this time?