GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) – If any member's bounces went Carl Pettersson's way Thursday at Sedgefield Country Club, well, there's a good reason for that.
“That's right – I am a member,'' Pettersson said, laughing. “I forgot.''
Pettersson shot an 8-under 62 to take the first-round lead in the Wyndham Championship.
David Mathis and Tim Clark were a stroke back, Tom Gillis, Scott Stallings and Troy Matteson shot 64, and Matt Every had a 65 in the final event before the FedEx Cup playoffs.
The top of the leaderboard had a decidedly local flavor. Pettersson went to high school in Greensboro and lives in Raleigh, and both he and Clark played at North Carolina State. Mathis grew up in Winston-Salem, played collegiately at Campbell and lives north of Raleigh in the town of Wake Forest.
Pettersson, a Swede who became an American citizen during the offseason, had the best first round of his PGA Tour career and his best round at this event since 2008, when he set the tournament record with a second-round 61 and went on to win in his adopted hometown.
Starting on the back nine, he reeled off consecutive birdies on Nos. 5-8 to move to 8 under. He had a chance to match his record on No. 9, but pushed his 30-foot birdie putt roughly a foot to the right of the hole.
Despite that, it was yet another strong round for Pettersson, who won the RBC Heritage in April and has five top-10 finishes this year. That included a tie for third at the PGA Championship last week – which would have been a second-place finish had he not been assessed a two-stroke penalty in the final round for grazing a leaf with his backswing while hitting out of a lateral water hazard.
“I think this game is very streaky,'' Pettersson said. “We get on a good run, you've got to keep going and it seems like when you're playing well, you never think you're going to play bad. When you're playing bad, you never think you're going to play well.''
Pettersson was part of one of the most closely followed threesomes of the day, joining U.S. Open champ Webb Simpson (Wake Forest) and Davis Love III (North Carolina) as previous winners of this tournament who played for schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference – which was founded here in 1953.
They helped make the first round feel a bit like the ACC tournament.
“Playing with two ACC guys, there's a lot of `Go Pack!' and `Go Heels!''' Simpson said.
Some of those N.C. State cheers could have been saved for Clark, a star with the Wolfpack in the mid-1990s before Pettersson enrolled. He was bogey-free and had an eagle on the par-5 fifth. He landed his second shot roughly 8 feet from the flagstick and sank the ensuing putt for one of the 11 eagles on that hole.
“I've got to keep pace with Carl,'' Clark said. “When he goes low, he really goes low. If I'm able to hang in there, it's going to be a lot of fun.''
Mathis may not have those ties to the ACC, but he did have another reason – aside from the obvious – for wanting to leapfrog Pettersson: They both play the same Hasentree course in north Raleigh.
“Man, I sure would have liked to have clipped him by a shot today,'' Mathis said, laughing.
That bit of levity masked the sense of urgency he's facing in his final chance to qualify for the playoffs. Mathis, who has just one top-10 finish this year, arrived at No. 136 on the FedEx Cup points list and the top 125 qualify for The Barclays.
Mathis was bogey-free and had three straight birdies on Nos. 13-15 to move to 7 under before closing his round with three pars.
“I tried not to think about it, but it's really difficult not to think about because it's such a big part of the year,'' Mathis said. “Your life can change really quick in the FedEx Cup if you play well.''