Thursday at a golf tournament is a bit like a chamber music recital: peaceful, beautiful, with spatters of polite applause for most of the day. Even as the afternoon slides by and the beverages start kicking in, a person is not going to go deaf from the noise.
On Sunday afternoon, yeah, when the birdies start flying it sounds like an Auburn-Alabama football game, but by then the stage has been set, sides have been chosen and it’s show time. You get more body English, more glaring at the sky like somebody up there just coughed on your backswing, more tooth grinding, more sweat stains.
As Thursdays go, though, about the only way to ruin this one at the Wells Fargo Championship was to rattle the ball around in the trees and rinse a couple in the pond and shoot something ugly enough to make you go ahead and book an early flight out of town tonight. The weather was designer blue and gold, the Quail Hollow Club course was showing off its charms and its muscles and, to make everybody feel at home, there were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the locker room.
Still, you had PGA Tour veterans Chris DiMarco and Kevin Stadler shooting 80 and Arnold Palmer’s grandson Sam Saunders, someone everybody could pull for, posted a 77. There’s only so much peanut butter and jelly can do.
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Some of the good stuff that happened reintroduced us to a cluster of players we know like we know our kin but who, in fact, have been nudged into the scenery in recent years.
One of Thursday’s hot hands, former Wells Fargo champion David Toms, in with a 66, hasn’t won since 2006. He’s liking his game this week (“I played great today”) and he’s a fan of the course (“This is just a place I like”) and that’s always a good parlay.
Another former winner here, Vijay Singh, who has wrestled with his putting demons on and off, is looking for his first win since 2008 and got a running start on it with a 68.
Padraig Harrington got in with a 69. He hasn’t won since 2008, when he won two majors. He chatted with the media after the round and when a writer thanked him for his time, Harrington said, “Thanks for wanting me.”
Into that company of stars trying to battle back to prominence came Sergio Garcia, another whose putter has treated him badly. He has an impressive resume, but it doesn’t list a win on the PGA Tour since 2008, when he won the Players Championship. He had 69 Thursday.
Add Davis Love III to that list. The popular Charlotte native hasn’t won since 2008, but he went around Quail Hollow in a relatively uneventful 70, good enough to give hope to his big following here.
But this was only Thursday. Chapter One.