Hot Bill Haas seizes Quail Hollow lead

REST IN PEACE?:Even before Thursday, Haas had a special affection for the course he used to play with his father, while rookie Scott Jamieson heads the Spanish Open

AFP, CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

Sat, May 07, 2011 - Page 19

Bill Haas fired a record-equaling eight-under par 64 on Thursday to seize a two-shot lead after the first round of the USPGA Wells Fargo Championship.

Haas’ eight birdies included all four of the par-fives as he equaled the lowest opening round ever shot in the event.

“I’ve got good feelings around this place,” Haas said.

Haas was two strokes in front of David Toms and Jonathan Byrd, who set an early target in chilly early morning conditions.

Haas opened his round with a birdie at the par-five 10th, where he hit a three-wood onto the green and two-putted.

He added three more birdies before he had to make a 10-footer to save par at 18.

Even before Thursday’s sparkling effort, Haas held a special affection for Quail Hollow, which he played as a youngster with his father, Jay Haas, a nine-time winner on the PGA Tour.

“My dad would say: ‘Let’s go play Quail tomorrow.’ It was a bigger deal than just playing at home,” Haas said.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy also has plenty of good memories of Quail Hollow, but he struggled to a 75 that included five bogeys and two birdies.

“The story of the day for me is I really didn’t hit it very well, which is unlike me,” said McIlroy, who is playing in the US for the first time since his final-round collapse at the Masters last month. “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.”

Pat Perez and Lucas Glover shared fourth on 67. They were followed by a group of five players on 68 that included Fiji’s Vijay Singh, Aussie Stuart Appleby and rising US star Rickie Fowler.

Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington were in a group on 69.

“I hadn’t played in a few weeks, and to shoot under par was a good start,” said Mickelson, who twice found the water, but managed to save par each time. “It could have been a lot better, could have been a lot worse. I’ll certainly take it.”

Byrd and Toms had to contend with morning cold that made the course play longer than usual.

Toms, not a long hitter, was especially pleased with his round.

“It was cold this morning, and we were all out there with our jackets and sweaters on and playing these long par fours,” he said. “If I can shoot three-under on the front nine, as long as it played, I’ll take that any day.”

SPANISH OPEN

REUTERS, BARCELONA

British rookie Scott Jamieson eclipsed the Spanish Open field on Thursday with an opening six--under-par 66 at El Prat to lead by a stroke.

Jamieson leads from local favorite Pablo Larrazabal, fellow rookie Romain Wattel of France and experienced tour winners Jeev Milkha Singh of India and Briton Steve Webster.

The 27-year-old Scot has made a remarkable transition over two years, elevating himself from the Europro and Challenge tours to become a force on the main tour.

However, despite fifth and sixth places in his nine events, Augusta State University graduate Jamieson has been unable to play the last four weeks because of his tour ranking.

However, a trip to visit his fiancee in Jacksonville during his break, where he practiced at the Palancia course, paid dividends at the tricky El Prat layout.

“My coach told me to get my bad shots under control, no one needs to make good shots better,” Jamieson told reporters after a round that included two 30 foot putts and eight birdies.

Larrazabal’s extensive local knowledge stood the Spaniard in good stead as he took the early lead. A member of the club near Barcelona, Larrazabal has played countless rounds at the course designed by Greg Norman and opened in 2004.

“Nobody knows this course better than me,” Larrazabal said after carding a flawless 67. “I know exactly where to hit the greens. You can be in big trouble if you hit them in the wrong spot.”

Larrazabal was watched for a few holes by his brother Alex, the 2002 British Amateur champion, before Alex took up his duties as Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal’s caddie.

It has been a barren time for Larrazabal since he burst on to the European Tour scene with a dramatic victory in the 2008 French Open as a qualifier.

“For the last five or six months, I’ve been playing very solidly without finishing off in tournaments,” he said. “It would be nice to do so here.”

One of the tournament favourites, 18-year-old Matteo Manassero, marked his first event back after winning the Malaysian Open with a frustrating 73.

“The greens were very tricky and difficult to read, so I missed quite a few birdie chances,” the Italian teenager told reporters. “Tomorrow I’m going to have better knowledge of the course, so I should do better.”

Britain’s Elliot Saltman, back after serving a three-month ban for rules breaches, returned a 72, opening with a double-bogey, but turning his day around by coming home in three-under 33.