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Quail Hollow leaderboard raises question: Who are these guys?

Robert Streb started his round at Quail Hollow on Thursday with a sparse gallery. He finished it with a seven-under 65 and the first-round lead.
Robert Streb started his round at Quail Hollow on Thursday with a sparse gallery. He finished it with a seven-under 65 and the first-round lead. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

I picked Kevin Kisner to win the Wells Fargo Championship. But I vacillated for days because there was another player most people would consider a long shot who I wanted to pick. The decision was excruciating. Ask anybody who knows me. I was so torn I couldn’t even sleep. I promise.

That player is Robert Streb. When Streb began the first round Thursday there were fewer people in his gallery than there are at some dinner tables. But by the time he finished, there were more. Streb did not bogey a hole and he birdied seven. He finished with a 65.

Streb is from Chickasha, Okla., and played at Kansas State. He’s 28 and won the McGladrey Classic in October. His favorite cities to visit are Rochester, N.Y., and Manhattan – Manhattan, Kan.

He stood on the back of a golf cart after his round and had no idea where it was taking him. It was taking him to the interview tent. He has played the tournament twice, missing the cut in 2013. So this was new turf.

Kisner is four strokes back. So is Justin Thomas.

Thomas, 22, defies physics. He is 5-foot-10 and weighs 148 pounds. He’s kind of proud of the 148. He’s listed at 145 and has difficulty putting on weight. But he’s added three pounds the past few weeks. He’s lean with no discernible muscle and a waist that’s 30 or 32 inches.

He defies physics because he averages 300 yards a drive.

“He’s real aggressive, young, bombs it,” says Ricky Barnes, who played with Thomas on Thursday.

How do you do that?

“I don’t know,” Thomas says.

He generates tremendous club-head speed and when he connects the sound is distinctive. It says: “See you, be sure to write.” He had four birdies Thursday. Quail Hollow has four par-5 holes. He birdied each of them and nothing else.

He was a star at Alabama, and you have to work very had to envision him becoming anything less than a star on the tour.

There’s more than golf going on at the tournament. This is why the relative absence of big names this season was never going to undermine attendance. The tournament is on Charlotte’s calendar. It’s May, so this is where we go. You will see somebody you know.

If you don’t, you will before you leave. The tournament was marketed in a brilliant advertising campaign as a place for fans to establish meaningful relationships, or at least to acquire a few phone numbers. Jonathan Jones wrote a column for the Observer on Wednesday that offered tips for people in their 20s and 30s to meet. Included was advice about where to go, what to wear and what to say.

But what about people in, say, their 60s? Where do they go?

They go to the tournament, too. I walked the course the past three dayslooking for places where people my age and older gather. As far as fashion tips go, I don’t have any. That’s the beauty of aging. Fashion no longer applies.

I found older fans at every hole and at almost every picnic table, and several did not sit on chairs next to the tee box and green.

I’m not here to offer dating tips, but I can tell you the three most popular places at Quail Hollow Club for older fans to meet: The clubhouse, the first aid tent and the shade.

Sorensen: 704-358-5119; tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @tomsorensen

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