Simpson tied for lead; Woods opens with 71
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 65 for a share of the lead Thursday 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.”
There was a lot to like for just about everyone on a steamy day in Carolina. With temperatures pushing 90 and barely a breeze, scoring conditions were so ideal that even par was over the cut line going into the second round. The average score 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.
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 qualified on Monday the last two tournaments.
The scoring was so low that about one-quarter of the field shot in the 60s, and half of them broke par.
Phil Mickelson recovered from a tee shot that went out-of-bounds and led to triple bogey and shot 71. Rory McIlroy, who earned his first PGA 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.