Fast-finishing Fowler shares early Quail Hollow lead

Thu May 3, 2012 3:15pm EDT

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(Reuters) - While Tiger Woods prepared for a late teeoff, Rickie Fowler birdied three of the last four holes to surge into a share of the early lead in Thursday's opening round of the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The 23-year-old Fowler took advantage of ideal scoring conditions at Quail Hollow Club, firing a six-under-par 66 to finish level with fellow Americans DA Points and Patrick Reed, Australian John Senden and Britain's Brian Davis.

Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge sank a 35-foot birdie putt on his final hole, the par-four ninth, for a 67 to sit one stroke off the pace with Americans Billy Mayfair and Brian Harman.

Fowler, one of the most exciting prospects in the game who has yet to win his first PGA Tour title, set his round alight by rolling in an eagle putt from 12 feet at the par-five seventh.

He went on to birdie the eighth, 15th, 16th and the par-four last to set the tournament pace.

"I actually played pretty solid the first six holes, just couldn't get a putt to go in," Fowler told reporters. Every putt I had that was uphill I left short, and I had two quick downhill putts ... one broke off, one stayed just outside.

"(On seven) I finally got a putt to go in and it kind of went on from there. I feel like I'm comfortable off the tee here, and I seem to hit a lot of good iron shots here.

"On these greens, if you can get it into the right section ... and get things going, you can put up a round like I did today."

While Fowler made a storming start at Quail Hollow, four-times major champion Phil Mickelson was briefly derailed by a triple-bogey at the par-four fourth where he hit his tee shot out of bounds.

"I played pretty well today and hit a lot of greens but made one mistake with the triple there," left-hander Mickelson said after opening with a five-birdie 71. "That was a really poor tee shot.

"Fortunately I came back to shoot one under. I'll try and come out tomorrow and shoot something in the mid-60s and get into the weekend ... if I can get a hot round, I'll get right in it."

Mickelson ended the day level with British world number three Lee Westwood while 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover launched his title defense with a 72.

Former world number one Woods, winner here in 2007, and U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, who clinched his first PGA Tour title at the 2010 Wells Fargo Championship, were among the day's late starters.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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