Toms takes share of early lead at Quail Hollow

A cold morning and different wind direction made Quail Hollow feel longer than ever to David Toms. He managed just fine Thursday with a 6-under 66 and a share of the early lead with Jonathan Byrd at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Despite having to hit fairway metal into three par 4s, Toms made par on all of them and used the wind to his advantage with a birdie on the final hole to get his name atop the leaderboard among those who played early.

Byrd, who has missed the cut in five of his previous six appearances at Quail Hollow, also had seven birdies for a 66.

The morning typically offers the best conditions. This was an unusual day.

For starters, it was just over 40 degrees when the opening round began. The reason for the cold weather was a north wind, which is rare for this golf course. It made for a long layout, and Toms felt it early.

He hit a fairway metal from 218 yards on No. 3, and from 228 yards on No. 4, both dead into the wind. On the ninth, he had 230 yards to the green. But he got through it fine, and an eagle on the par-5 seventh with a shot into 5 feet left him feeling good about the day.

"It was cold this morning, and we were all out there with our jackets and sweaters on and playing these long par 4s," Toms said. "If I can shoot 3 under on the front nine, as long as it played, I'll take that any day."

Toms and Byrd each made a birdie on the toughest par 3s. For Toms it was a 15-foot putt on the 238-yard sixth hole. Byrd knocked in a 30-foot birdie putt on the 209-yard 17th with the peninsula green.

Lucas Glover and Pat Perez each had a 5-under 67, while Carl Pettersson and Stuart Appleby were another shot back. Sergio Garcia, who has three weeks to get into the top 50 and avoid U.S. Open qualifying for the first time in his career, opened with a 68. Garcia is No. 72 in the world.

Padraig Harrington, feeling stronger after a freak neck injury at the Masters, was among those at 69.

Not so fortunate was defending champion Rory McIlroy, making his first appearance in America since his Sunday collapse at the Masters that cost him his first major championship.

McIlroy opened with a bogey on the par-5 10th and didn't get much better as the day went on. He opened with a 75 and faces the prospect of missing the cut. Then again, he narrowly missed the cut last year and went on to win with a 62 in the final round.

"The story of the day for me is I really didn't hit it very well, which is unlike me," McIlroy said. "It'd be the strength of my game and today I just wasn't striking it well. My timing was off just a little bit."

McIlroy began working with putting specialist Dave Stockton this week, mostly with his routine.

Phil Mickelson was among the late starters, along with past champions Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk.

Byrd is the opposite of a past champion. He typically plays so poorly at Quail Hollow that only once has he made it to the weekend, and that yielded his only round in the 60s. And yet he loves the course, loves the tournament and keeps coming back.

"It's pretty odd," said Byrd, who opened the year with a playoff win at Kapalua. "If it wasn't close to home, I might start saying, 'I just don't play well there, I need to go home.' But my family is close to home here in Columbia, South Carolina, and it's not far from Clemson. They just knock it out of the park at this golf tournament, and it's a tournament I can't miss."