CHARLOTTE North Carolina (Reuters) - Twice major champion Angel Cabrera conjured up some of his old magic to seize the clubhouse lead with a six-under-par 66 in the first round of the $6.9 million Wells Fargo Championship on Thursday.
The long-hitting veteran from Argentina reeled off four successive birdies around the turn to finish two strokes in front of Americans Stewart Cink and Jonathan Byrd with half the field back in the clubhouse at Quail Hollow.
German Martin Kaymer notched the rare feat of consecutive eagles to join a large group on 69 that also included Northern Ireland’s former world number one Rory McIlroy.
Cabrera, 44, has made few headlines since losing a playoff to Adam Scott at last year’s Masters but he is still capable of matching it with the game’s best on any given day.
“I played very well on the greens and saved myself on the holes that I didn’t play so well,” Cabrera, whose only two PGA Tour victories came at the highest level with the 2007 U.S. Open and the 2009 Masters, told reporters.
He had two birdies and one bogey in the first five holes before kickstarting his move up the leaderboard with a five-foot birdie putt at the par-five seventh.
Cabrera then recorded four birdies in a row from the ninth hole, three of them from close range, along with a monster 42-foot putt from the fringe at the 11th.
Kaymer, meanwhile, could not remember ever having previous scored successive eagles.
“I don’t think I’ve ever done that before,” the German said of his accomplishment, which occurred at the par-five seventh, where he sank a 15-footer, and the par-four eighth, where he holed out from the rough from 65 yards.
He considered his two eagles were just reward for an otherwise frustrating day on the greens.
“I missed a lot of short putts today,” he said. “I stayed in the tournament but overall it would have been nice to get a couple more shots here and there.”
Kaymer was ranked number one in the world barely three years ago, but has since slipped to 63rd.
He has not been playing badly, missing only two cuts worldwide since this event last year, but has not often contended for victory.
It was not a good morning for South Korea’s Noh Seung-yul, winner of last week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans, who started with a 76.
This week’s event has attracted a high-quality field, although not quite as strong as it did in its first few years at Quail Hollow.
The course received rave reviews when the event was first held in 2003, but the greens were in poor condition last year which perhaps scared off a few players this year. Still, this week’s field includes four of the world’s top-12 players.
Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes