Webb Simpson was nervous playing in the same group with Tiger Woods. It sure didn’t show Thursday in the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C.
Simpson chipped in from 35 yards in front of the par-4 eighth green for eagle, and then made Woods shake his head and smile when he holed a 60-foot birdie putt that might have rolled off the 12th green if the cup didn’t get in the way.
It led to a 7-under-par 65 for a share of the first-round lead with Stewart Cink and Ryan Moore.
“I was nervous playing with Tiger. I prayed a lot out there,’’ said Simpson, who lives about a mile away from Quail Hollow and already was on edge about trying to perform well for the neighbors. “Once I made a couple birdies, I kind of enjoyed it.’’
With temperatures pushing 90 and barely a breeze, scoring conditions were ideal. The average was 71.72, the lowest for the first round in the 10-year history of the tournament.
Woods failed to take advantage. In his first tournament since a tie for 40th at the Masters - his worst performance as a pro at Augusta National - he made too many mistakes early and had to one-putt three of the last four greens for a 71.
“I’ve got to obviously not make those little mistakes like that tomorrow,’’ Woods said. “We’ve got a long way to go, and we’ve got some rain coming probably on the weekend, so we’re going to have to go get it.’’
So many others did just that, including Cink, who has been mired in a slump. He ended an already solid day with three straight birdies, holing a 20-foot putt on the ninth for his lowest round of the year. Moore also birdied his last three holes.
Rickie Fowler, still searching for his first PGA Tour win in his third full season, led a group of five players at 66 that included Patrick Reed, the 21-year-old from Augusta State who has Monday qualified to get in the last two tournaments.
Phil Mickelson recovered from a tee shot that went out of bounds and led to a triple bogey and shot 71.
Rory McIlroy, who earned his first tour win at Quail Hollow two years ago by closing with a 62, birdied three of the par 5s but three-putted from 18 feet on the 18th hole and had to settle for a 70.
European - Former PGA Championship winner Shaun Micheel grabbed the first-round lead after a 5-under 67 at the 100th Spanish Open in Sevillle.
Micheel, ranked 608th, led by one stroke after eight birdies and three bogeys, including one on the last hole of the Real de Golf de Sevilla course.
Spain’s Jorge Capillo and the English pair of Robert Rock and Danny Willett were tied with 68s.
Bubba Watson has decided to skip next week’s Players Championship, saying he needs to spend more time with his wife, Angie, and the 2-month-old son they adopted two weeks before he won the Masters, his first major championship.