Haas storms clear with a 64

Bill Haas used local knowledge and a red hot putter to grab the 1st round lead at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Bill Haas used local knowledge and a red hot putter to shoot a blistering 8-under 64 and take a two-shot lead after Thursday’s opening round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Fellow Americans David Toms, a Former PGA Champion, and Jonathan Byrd shared second place after both posted 66s

Two more Americans, former US Open champion Lucas Glover and Pat Perez were a shot further back heading intro Friday’s third round with the first of the overseas stars, Vijay Singh of Fiji, Stuart Appleby of Australia and Sweden’s Carl Pettersson in a five-way tie on 68.

In direct contrast to the low scores at the top of the leaderboard, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who stormed to his first PGA Tour title here last year with a course-record 62 on the final day, battled to find any momentum and struggled home with a three-over-par 75.

The 22-year-old had five bogeys and just two birdies in a round he described in a tweet as: “Not the start I was looking for,”

McIlroy hit only eight fairways and 10 greens and needed 32 putts in the round.

In the meantime 28-year-old Haas was having a glorious day helped no end by the fact that he was born in Charlotte, went to Wake Forest University in North Carolina and lives a 90-minute drive away in Greenville, South Carolina.

“That was good,” Haas said with satisfaction after posting a bogey-free round liberally sprinkled with four sparkling birdies on each nine.

“I made every putt I needed to make,” he said, having already made it clear that he thought his belly putter was the most important club in his bag.

The venue was also something he was enjoying.

“It feels like home here,” he said.

“I’ve got good feelings around this place. I’m comfortable, I guess, out there, although the whole thing looks different with ropes and people and grandstands.

“(Putting well) makes you more comfortable over your iron shots knowing that you can maybe miss this shot and your putter might save you because I just had the good feelings going with it.

“It’s early, and there’s a lot of golf left to play, and I hope it can just work for some of that time.”

Early birds Toms and Byrd had things far tougher than the late-starting Haas. They had to play in an icy wind that lengthened many of the holes on an already long course that measured close to 7,500 yards.

“It was cold this morning, and I had to just hang in there,” said Toms. “But then it started to warm up, and I birdied six, eagled seven, and all of a sudden I’m into the round and playing well.”

Toms, who won the inaugural tournament here in 2003, said the wind blew in a direction he was not used to.

“It was awfully long, that front nine this morning. I think I hit woods four times into holes in regulation,” he said.