By Joedy McCreary ,AP
GREENSBORO, North Carolina — Chris Stroud and England’s Ross Fisher each shot 6-under 64 on Thursday to share the first-round lead in the Wyndham Championship.
Eight players — defending champion Sergio Garcia, Matt Jones, Robert Garrigus, Jordan Spieth, Trevor Immelman, Morgan Hoffman, Patrick Reed and Andrew Svoboda — shot 65.
John Senden and Stuart Appleby were among the five players at 66 at the final tournament before the tour playoffs begin next week.
It was the highest score for an opening-round leader since the tournament returned to Sedgefield Country Club in 2008.
Stroud had eight birdies during his best round of the year, which came at the Donald Ross-designed course that had vexed him through the previous five years.
“I’ve even told people I love this golf course,” Stroud said. “I have no idea why I don’t play well here.”
Stroud could have skipped this week and rested ahead of the playoffs. He arrived at No. 48 on the points list and — unlike so many other players here this week — is assured of a spot in the playoff field.
“I’m playing too well to go home and just sit and get rusty,” Stroud said. “I said I want to get sharp for The Barclays. Let’s go to Greensboro, low expectations since I haven’t played that great here.”
Those expectations might have been raised after a strong first round in which he made a quick charge up the leaderboard with three straight birdies.
Fisher, a four-time winner on the European Tour who’s a rookie on the PGA Tour and at No. 162 on the points list, was in the day’s final threesome to start on the back nine, and he made his climb late.
“My manager said, `You’ve got nothing to lose. Just go out there all guns blazing and see what happens,”’ Fisher said. “I know what I’ve got to do, and I’ve just got to go enjoy it, and if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen. … I don’t want it to end here.”
Garcia, who claimed a two-stroke victory here last year, hit 17 greens during his bogey-free round. He is trying to become the first player since Sam Snead in the 1950s to win this tournament in consecutive years.
“It was a great round today, but it’s only Thursday,” Garcia said.
The greens here are more mature after a 2012 conversion from bent grass to Bermuda grass in an attempt to keep them firm and true to Ross’ intent.
Stroud said the greens “roll like pool tables,” Garrigus compared their speed to those found in major tournaments and Svoboda called them the fastest Bermuda greens he’s ever played.
“It’s unbelievable, the difference from where they used to be,” Garrigus said. “It’s very refreshing.”
Several players in the field are pushing to make the top 125 on the points list, which would earn them spots at The Barclays next week in New Jersey.
Peter Hanson, who at No. 126 is nearest to the mark, gave himself a good push with a 68. Appleby, at No. 123, is in good shape with his strong round.
But No. 129 Padraig Harrington shot a 73 to put his playoff fate in jeopardy. Immelman, at No. 148, needs a win to make it.
Jones, who is safe this year at No. 51 on the points list, can relate. He finished 126th in 2009 and 127th two years ago after rough weeks at this tournament.
“I’ve definitely been there before,” Jones said. “I know what they’re going through. It’s not a comfortable feeling.”