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McIlroy lies tied second, Theegala 49th in Wells Fargo Champs

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Charlotte, NC (USA), May 10 (PTI) Rory McIlroy was off to a good start in search of a record fourth Wells Fargo Championship title. His 4-under 67 left him three shots behind leader Xander Schauffele (64).

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Collin Morikawa and Alex Noren also shot 67, and Justin Thomas topped the group at 68.

Indian-Americans Sahith Theegala (73) and Akshay Bhatia (74) were T-49 and T-60, respectively, in the USD 20 million Signature event that does not have a cut.

Korean star Sungjae Im shot a solid 3-under 68 for tied fifth place as he bounced back from illness last week. The two-time PGA TOUR winner hit five birdies against two bogeys at Quail Hollow Club in the sixth Signature event of the season.

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He trails first-round leader Xander Schauffele, who fired a fine 64, which included a touch of good fortune for a three-stroke lead over Collin Morikawa, Alex Noren and Rory McIlroy.

This course here is one of McIlroy's favourites. In 2010, McIlroy closed with a 62 that included six straight 3s on his card to win his first PGA TOUR title two days before he turned 21.

He followed that with a seven-shot victory in 2015, shattering the tournament record at 21-under 267 after a course-record 61 in the third round. He added his third title in 2021.

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The only other player to win the Wells Fargo Championship multiple times is Homa, the 2019 and 2022 champion. He overcame a rough start, bogeying two of his first three holes to shoot 69.

Korean duo Si Woo Kim and Byeong Hun An carded matching 70s, while Tom Kim signed for a 73.

Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama withdrew before starting his round with a back injury.

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The 26-year-old Im was delighted to be back in action here, where he finished tied-eighth last season and also featured for the International Team in the 2022 Presidents Cup at the highly-rated golf course.

He had to skip last week’s THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson in Dallas after falling ill upon returning from Korea following a successful title defence of a Korean PGA Tour tournament.

Starting his day from the 10th tee, Schauffele, a seven-time PGA TOUR winner, hit an eagle and birdie over his last three holes on the seventh and ninth holes to open a three-shot lead, the largest 18-hole lead in the tournament history.

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He got lucky on the seventh hole after playing partner Wyndham Clark found his ball within the allotted three minutes to search for a ball following an errant drive and then was subsequently able to take a drop due to a Shotlink tower.

After taking the lead at 6-under with an eagle on the seventh, Schauffele sent his tee shot on No. 8 about 10 yards into some heavy woods, and the ball came to rest near a metal fence line.

He got relief from the rules official and dropped outside of the woods because of a temporary immovable object.

Schauffele managed to chip onto the green from the edge of the words and two-putt for par.

McIlroy was within two shots of Schauffele, but his fairway wood out of the bunker on the par-5 15th caught sand, and the ball squirted off to the right about 50 yards away. That led to a bogey, one of two in his final four holes. PTI Corr AYG KHS

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