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Haas leads Mickelson by 1 shot at Quail Hollow

Phil Mickelson's adventures at Quail Hollow were not so wild Friday, and now he's only one shot out of the lead in the Wells Fargo Championship.

Bill Haas went 34 holes before making his first bogey on the par-3 17th and wound up with a 2-under 70, giving him the lead among the early starters in the second round. Mickelson matched his best score in 30 rounds at Quail Hollow with a 66.

Vijay Singh, needing to crack the top 50 in the world to avoid U.S. Open qualifying, shot 68 and was two shots behind.

Mickelson hit a shot into the water for the third time this week, and again escaped with par. This one came on the 14th, and after a drop, hit a 140-yard shot to tap-in range. That was his only big score on a cool, cloudy morning.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Bill Haas won twice on the PGA Tour last year. He gladly would trade his season with a guy who only won once.

Haas was talking about Matt Kuchar, and he wasn't interested in the nearly $5 million that Kuchar earned last year to win the PGA Tour money title. What impressed him the most was Kuchar's 11 top-10 finishes.

That's where Haas is lacking.

"I'd rather have Matt Kuchar's year than mine," Haas said Thursday after opening with an 8-under 64 to build a two-shot lead in the Wells Fargo Championship. "To have all those top 10s means he's there just about every week. I like what he's doing. And then he starts up this year and he's doing it again."

Haas is happy with his wins last year at the Bob Hope Classic and the Viking Classic. The problem is they came toward the start and the end of the year, and there wasn't much to talk about during those nine months in between. There were six missed cuts. There was only one other top 10, at Doral, where he was 10 shots out of the lead. That's not much of a chance.

Haas was coming off another shaky stretch when he arrived at Quail Hollow. Over the last three months, he played eight tournaments and only had one finish inside the top 25.

And yet, his colleagues regarded him as one of the hottest players at the start of the year — a playoff loss at the Bob Hope Classic, in the final group at Torrey Pines and two off the lead going into the final round in Phoenix, all in successive weeks.

He didn't win — but he was right there.

What concerned him was the way he finished — a 75 at Torrey Pines, a 76 in Phoenix.

"If I turn that 151 into 144, I'm not saying I would have won, but I would have given myself a chance," he said.

That in mind, Haas is not about to get overly excited about his start in the Wells Fargo Championship. He had stress-free birdies on all the par 5s and did little wrong on the rest of the holes to match the tournament record for lowest opening round.

"I've got good feelings around this place," Haas said.

It was his best score by four shots at Quail Hollow on the PGA Tour, and way better than two dozen rounds he played as a kid when he would tag along with his father, Jay Haas, on the special trips they made to the course.

Haas had a two-shot lead over David Toms and Jonathan Byrd, who each had a 66 in the morning when it was barely above 40 degrees at the start with a north wind that is uncommon for this tournament.

Ultimately, the afternoon turned out to be perfect — much like Haas and his round.

He did have a few key par saves, such as the 10-foot putt he made at the turn on the 18th hole. The key for Haas, though, was getting off to a good start on the slightly tougher back nine, and knowing he could afford to make a few mistakes.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy made some errors early, and he never quite caught up. In his first trip back to America after his Sunday collapse in the Masters, the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland opened with a 75.

"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."

Phil Mickelson, in his first event since the Masters, hit two balls in the water on par 5s and scrambled for par each time. The first one was critical. He already was 1 over for the tournament through six holes when he came out of the pine straw and into the pond at No. 7. He holed a 12-foot par putt, then made birdie on the next four holes.

He wound up with a 69, along with Padraig Harrington.

"I hadn't played in a few weeks, and to shoot under par was a good start," Mickelson said. "It could have been a lot better, could have been a lot worse. I'll certainly take it."

Haas grew up in Greenville, S.C., although his father was a member and they often made the 90-mile drive to Quail Hollow.

"My dad would say, 'Let's go play Quail tomorrow.' It was a bigger deal than just playing at home," he said.

Haas figures he played some 30 rounds before turning pro. He also has good memories of the times he played the tournament with his father, older brother (Jay Jr.) and his uncle (Jerry Haas).

Even so, nothing compares to playing and making so many birdies.

Haas opened his round with a 3-wood onto the 10th green for a two-putt birdie, and a 7-iron to 15 feet on the 12th, which played as the second-toughest hole in the opening round. Then came a 30-foot birdie on the 14th, and an easy up-and-down from the front bunker on the par-5 15th for a birdie. He knew birdie chances awaited on the front with two par 5s, and he made birdie there, too.

Haas tinkered with a belly putter at Hilton Head a few weeks ago because the greens are flat. He was back to a conventional putter on the contoured greens of Quail Hollow, and wound up making his share of them.

"Putted well," he said, "which leads to everything."