Korea’s K.H. Lee rode a hot putter as he chases his maiden PGA TOUR victory and American veteran star Phil Mickelson following the opening round of the Wells Fargo Championship on Thursday.
Lee fired a tidy 5-under 66 at Quail Hollow Club for tied second place, thanks to six birdies on the card after registering a career best total of 172’ 10” putts made which was nearly 40 feet more than his previous best during the second round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier this year.
Mickelson, 50, shot a brilliant 64 to snatch his 30th 18-hole lead/co-lead as he targets a 45th career win on the PGA TOUR. Lee was accompanied by countryman Sungjae Im and Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira on the leaderboard, with the duo shooting 68s for T10.
Lee wore a big grin on his face despite a late bogey on 16 spoiling his card which featured birdies on Hole Nos. 3, 6, 7, 11, 14 and 15. “I holed some great putts at first, so I could keep that momentum until the end of the round. Also my iron play got better and my putting was solid which allowed me to make many birdies. I could finish my round with a happy smile,” said Lee.
He is hoping to become the latest Korean winner on the PGA TOUR, with his career best finish being a tied second finish in Phoenix earlier this year. Lee said course conditions were ideal for scoring. “Course was good, so I could play well,” added Lee, who ranked first in Strokes Gained: Putting.
Im, chasing a second TOUR victory, made five birdies against two bogeys and rued some errors with his iron play. “I hit good tee shots, and gave myself good positions for my iron shots. But I made some mistakes and missed some greens. A little disappointed with that, but I did have some good saves that kept my round going.
“Sometimes, the winds swirled suddenly, so it made it difficult target at the flag. It is a very long golf course and when the wind gets up, it makes this course more difficult. I need to consider that tomorrow,” said Im.
It has been nine months since World Golf Hall of Famer, Mickelson has finished amongst the top 20 but he produced a brilliant display of ball striking as all but one of his eight birdies was longer than five feet as he opened up a two-shot early lead.
The left-hander reeled in five birdies during a six-hole run around the turn, before signing off his day with two birdies. “The biggest thing for me was I was able to say in the present and focus on each shot. My mind has been prone to wander,” said Mickelson.
First-Round Notes – Thursday, May 6, 2021
Weather: Mostly sunny. High of 71. Wind NNW 5-10 mph.
Phil Mickelson 64 (-7)
K.H. Lee 66 (-5)
Keegan Bradley 66 (-5)
Six players at 4-under 67