CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - American Robert Streb rode a little luck and a hot putter into a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the Wells Fargo Championship on Thursday.
Streb dominated the par-fives, picking up birdies at all four of the long holes, en route to a bogey-free seven-under-par 65 in pleasant morning conditions at Quail Hollow.
The 28-year-old from Oklahoma leads fellow Americans Patrick Reed and Kevin Chappell by one stroke, with local favourite Webb Simpson among a large group two back.
Streb, whose breakthrough PGA Tour victory came at the McGladrey Classic in October, had a mini-slump earlier this year which coincided with the arrival of a daughter in February.
But a putting adjustment last week led to a solid tie for 30th at the Players Championship, and he carried that form into Thursday.
”Everything is trending the right way at the moment,“ Streb told reporters. ”I got the putter going, got my hands pushed forward a little bit and finally just made some putts over five, six feet.
“Last week was the first time in awhile I felt like I had putted solid for the most part.”
Streb’s lucky break came at the par-five seventh, where his 15-yard pitch shot was moving like a rocket when it clattered against the pin and stopped four feet away, setting up birdie.
“I hit my pitch too hard. Luckily it hit the flag. Everything was going my way,” said Streb.
Reed played in an afternoon grouping with Rory McIlroy, and he outplayed the world number one, who shot 70.
Reed has struggled with his driver recently, but he found signs of improvement and pounced on his birdie opportunities when they occurred.
“The driver has been going a little sideways (recently but) today I was able to keep it in play,” said Reed, whose first of four tour victories came barely an hour up the Interstate 85 freeway in Greensboro less than two years ago.
“Even though I only hit eight fairways, to me that seems like a lot, and the putter was working really well.”
McIlroy, meanwhile, did not seem fazed at giving the frontrunners a headstart.
“I feel like the course is there to be had. There’s definitely something in the middle-to-low 60s out there tomorrow morning,” said the Northern Irishman, who entertained a large gallery with some superb drives, though he also made a few mistakes, most notably a double-bogey at the par-three 17th.
Editing by Steve Keating