GREENSBORO – On a postcard worthy day at the Wyndham Championship bookend 64s highlighted first-round play at Sedgefield Country Club.
Early, it was Chris Stroud, and late, it was Ross Fisher. The two, who have never won on the PGA Tour, shared the lead heading into Friday’s second round.
With temperatures in the low 70s and plenty of sun and very little breeze it was an ideal day to score. However, negotiating the diabolical Donald Ross greens was still no picnic.
“They roll like pool tables,” said Stroud, who did his best imitation of Minnesota Fats on the greens by rolling in putt after putt.
Stroud finished his round by 1:30 p.m. saying he didn’t think his score would stand up. He was right but it wasn’t until Fisher, who was in the final threesome, also shot 64 thanks to an eagle on No. 5 and a birdie on No. 7, which was his 16th hole of the day.
“Obviously, it was the putter and it’s let me down most of the year but not today,” said Fisher, who is a distant 162nd on the FedEx Cup points list. “It’s nice to go out and play some solid golf for a change.”
Chasing Stroud and Fisher are plenty of the big names in the field. Eight players fired 65s including defending champion Sergio Garcia, rising stars Morgan Hoffman and Jordan Spieth and former Masters champion Trevor Immelman. Also with a 65 were Matt Jones, Robert Garrigus, Andrew Svoboda and Patrick Reed.
A total of 76 golfers broke par out of the 156 in the field.
After putting up his 64 Stroud didn’t rush off to his hotel and instead stayed around to get a full practice session in. The weather dictated that he stick around, work on his game, and fine-tune his swing.
“This was one of the best weather days we’ve had all season,” said Stroud, who after conducting interviews worked on his putting stroke for about a half hour.
He then worked nearly two hours on the practice range with his caddie, John Limanti.
“I didn’t hit it that well, actually,” he said. “I got away with a lot but I made 150 feet in putts.”
Garcia, one of the biggest names in the field, didn’t disappoint his fans, putting together a solid late-afternoon round.
“I felt probably the most comfortable I’ve felt in the last three weeks,” said Garcia, whose last victory was a year ago on this same course. “Finally, I was able to get some decent looking shots, and I was able to put a good round in there.”
Garcia is trying to add to the history of one of the longest running PGA Tour tournaments on the schedule by becoming just the second repeat champion in its 74 years. Sam Snead, who won eight times, repeated as champion twice.
With speeds at 12 on the Stimpmeter, there were not a lot of easy putts on the crowned greens.
“(The greens) are as good or better than they were last year, and it’s definitely made this golf course much better,” Garcia said about the Champion Bermuda greens that are a year older and firmer even with the constant summer rain.
Fisher had no complaints about the greens despite playing late in the day.
“This is very much a second-shot golf course,” said Fisher, who has only played Sedgefield twice with his other round coming Tuesday in a pro-am. “If you can put it in the right spots then it really helps the rest of your game.”
Spieth, a 20-year-old who won earlier this season when he was 19, jumped into contention thanks to his length off the tee. On No. 18 he drove it 362 yards, hit a nice approach to within a foot, and tapped in for birdie.
He also caught a break on the par-5 15th when his second shot out of the rough with a 3-wood carried all the way into the bleachers around the green but got a nice bounce.
“I started laughing,” Spieth said about the bounce that helped him birdie the hole. “Just one of those breaks that turns a 67 or 68 into a 65.”
Fisher, who plays on both the European Tour and the PGA Tour, might have an advantage in Saturday’s second round because he will tee off early in the morning.
As he finished up his round with a par on the ninth hole at around 7 p.m. there weren’t many fans watching.
The good-natured Fisher was asked if fans should come watch him play in the second round.
“If they want to, great. If they don’t, doesn’t matter,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll see me on Saturday and Sunday.”