Thorbjorn Olesen and Kevin Kisner set the early pace at four under, with the majority of the big names back in the pack at Quail Hollow
Proof that the 99 th US PGA Championship will not be the domain of merely two players should not have been necessary. Nonetheless, such a prompting was likely useful. Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, the dynamic duo who dominated pre-tournament debate, matched opening-round scores.
That the number in question is 72, one-over par, is barely cause to rule either of them out of lifting the Wanamaker Trophy but it will also offer incentive to others in the field. The early signs are this will be an attritional major.
Denmarks Thorbjorn Olesen, a player with a distinctly average record in the final major of the year, heads proceedings with Kevin Kisner, of the USA, at minus four. Among the big names to hover with intent are Paul Casey and Rickie Fowler, who are two from the result. The relatively high state of the scoring exemplified another point; that changes as made to Quail Hollow in the past year, particularly on the greens, render this a most varied venue to the one McIlroy has enjoyed such success on. These greens are trickier than Augusta National, observed Adam Scott. The 2013 Master champion did not seem to mean this as a compliment.
McIlroy had been in fine stance at two under before a stumble which in many respects epitomised the annoyances of his season. The Northern Irishman observed water from the 14 th tee en route to a double bogey, with chances to atone for that error passed up on the par five 15 th and the last two pits. Fowler, playing alongside McIlroy and Jon Rahm, recovered wonderfully from a triple-bogey seven at the 5th. Rahm is one under.
Im merely frustrated with that[ bad] stretching, but Im right in it, said McIlroy. It wasnt very easy. It was tough. The greens were difficult. They got very grainy as the day went on as well. If you only hit a putt a tiny bit off line, it exaggerated it. It was tough to hole putts this afternoon. Hopefully the surfaces are a little better tomorrow morning and we can hopefully hole some more putts. Im merely five behind; this is a tough golf course.
Spieth, who formed part of the morning wave, endured a poor day with putter in hand. Yes, it truly does happen. Im pretty solid with the leading, he told. So that was various kinds of the goal, to grab the result. Its much easier when you are on the front page of the leaderboard than it is coming from behind. Dedicated its the first round I know Im still in it but I know that tomorrows round becomes that much more important to run my route[ up] and stay in it. Ive got to make up ground. I cant putt any worse than I did today.
Brooks Koepkas opportunities at Quail Hollow were always stronger than bizarrely long odds of 251 suggested. Koepka has driving accuracy and distance, which are valuable commodities at this venue. A US Open triumph in June also improved the Americans belief in his level of talent which is now reflected by that success. Koepka signed for a 68, after which he highlighted the value of a level head.
We focus in on these majors and thats when youre trying to peak, trying to play your best, he said. Sometimes its a lot simpler than people suppose. I believe people kind of subconsciou themselves out quite a bit in a major, put too much pressure on themselves. Its the same game Ive been playing for 23, 24 years. All youve got to do is put the ball in the hole and move on.
I suppose people get quite frustrated sometimes in majors. Ive insured it a lot. Youve just got to stay really patient and realise sometimes bogey is not a bad score out here. Its quite difficult but youve just got to realise that, you know, youre in the first round of a four-round event. So one pit isnt going to kill you.
I try not to make a double-bogey. Thats kind of my aim in a major; if I can maintain doing that I dont know the last time I did in a major. It takes one pit to recover from a bogey and it takes two to come back from a double. Youre not going to make many birdies in a major championship, so you need to stay patient.
Tommy Fleetwood appeared at this major having been afforded considerably less spotlight than was the occurrence at the Open, in his hometown of Southport, last month.
Perhaps that lack of attention boosted Fleetwoods mindset; he opened with a 70, the same score as Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson. Justin Rose, amazingly, could fare no better than 76, a rating matched by Luke Donald. Casey opened with a 69, which placed him alongside Patrick Reed.
Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els hoped for happier starts to their 100 th major appearances. Els tumbled to a morning 80 while Mickelson, who remains without a win since the 2013 Open, posted a 79 afterwards in the day.
John Daly rolled back the years, however, when marauding to minus one and a share of seventh. It didnt last and he finished with a seven for a round of 74.
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