GREENSBORO, N.C. —
Judging by that 64 he shot in the first round of the Wyndham Championship on Thursday, Groves native Chris Stroud just may have solved his Sedgefield Country Club puzzle.
The former Lamar University star has played in the event every year since it moved to the Donald Ross gem and all he has to show for his efforts are four missed cuts and a solo 73rd. But Thursday's round of 6 under was his career-low at Sedgefield and earned him a share of the first round lead with Ross Fisher.
So what did Stroud do after he finished the obligatory interviews? He headed for the putting green and planned to hit the range right afterwards.
"I got away with a lot today," Stroud said candidly.
After all, the Texan only hit five fairways and 11 greens in regulation during the first round. But he was deadly with the flat stick, needing only 23 putts. If the man who ranks 48th in the FedExCup can shore things up tee-to-green he could be tough to beat.
“Golf is funny. I've played well last week at the PGA and missed the cut by one. I played probably the same at Hartford, almost won the golf tournament. I didn't play that great today but I'm in the lead. It's a weird deal. It's all about combinations. I putted extremely good today but I've had rounds where I hit it way better and didn’t make anything.”
Stroud, whose first start as a pro came at the Wyndham Championship in 2004 when the tournament was played at Forest Oaks, says he doesn't know why his record at Sedgefield is so poor.
"I've even told people I love this golf course," he said. "I have no idea why I don't play well here. Maybe because I don't hit it in the fairway very often like I did today. But there's just some good, sharp lines off the tee you got to hit. If you don't, you're going to be in the rough and have a tough time especially with the greens as firm as they are."
Stroud, who had matching nines of 32 on Thursday, and rolled in eight birdies, comes to Greensboro after missing his last two cuts, with the most recent, at the PGA Championship, coming by just one stroke. But he's had four top-10s this season, including a playoff loss to Ken Duke at the Travelers Championship, so it's been a very solid campaign.
Stroud, who has never finished higher than 61st in the FedExCup, could move into the top 15 in the standings should he go on to win the Wyndham Championship .. So he decided to play and stay sharp rather than take a week off to rest up for the playoffs.
"Obviously the FedEx is about to start, that's pretty important, and it's a great golf course," Stroud said. "But I missed the cut (by one) last week. ...
"I told my caddy I got to play next week. I'm playing too well to go home and just sit and get rusty. 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, let's just put a lot of good practice sessions in and then the weather turned out amazing this week. ...
"I'm happy to be here and, again, it's a great golf course .
Stroud birdied three of Sedgefield’s par 3s, including the 236-yard 7th, where he hit his tee shot to one foot. He also birdied both of the par 5s. After making consecutive birdies at his 14th, 15th and 16th holes, he was 7 under and in position to go really low.
But a penalty shot after finding water on the par 4, 8th (his 17th hole) led to a bogey. Then, after having made so many mid-range putts, he missed a 4-foot birdie attempt on the final hole.