KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina — Even earlier than a tee was formally put within the floor Thursday morning on the PGA Championship, there was a certainty curiosity. How would the golf course play? Would the wind blow a lot the perfect gamers on the planet would spend your entire week simply making an attempt to hold on? And, after all, which gamers would deal with the troublesome Ocean Course at Kiawah Island?
Now it is on to Spherical 2, as gamers place themselves for the weekend — and in some instances, strive to ensure they’re nonetheless round for the weekend.
Can Phil Mickelson actually contend?
Posting a rating beneath par within the first spherical of a significant, whilst he crept towards 50 years outdated after which previous it, wasn’t out of the strange for Mickelson. Effectively, there may be one catch: It often occurred solely on the Masters, the place he has opened with a rating within the 60s 4 occasions previously 5 years.
The primary spherical of a significant outdoors the gates of Augusta Nationwide … now that is a special story. That’s the reason his opening-round 70, which included a 4-under, bogey-free 32 on the tougher again 9 on the Ocean Course, is so stunning.
Take away the Masters and Mickelson has posted an under-par spherical to start a significant simply as soon as in his previous 10 begins. That occurred on the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. He went 13 over the subsequent three days and tied for 71st.
“Within the final couple of months I’ve been beginning to play good golf,” he mentioned after Thursday’s spherical. “I’ve had a bit bother staying current on each shot for your entire spherical. I believed I did a reasonably good job of that at present.”
On Thursday, he stood on the seventh tee at 3 over thanks to 3 consecutive bogeys and 4 in his first six holes. A birdie on the seventh steadied him. He did not make a mistake the remainder of the way in which.
Nonetheless, that was only one spherical. There are three extra left on a treacherous golf course. Can this final?
“Effectively my expectations are to play good rounds as a result of I have been enjoying effectively and hitting good pictures,” mentioned Mickelson, who turns 51 in June. “What I did do effectively was I used to be extraordinarily strong inside 6-7 ft. I putted very well. I did not make something outdoors of that, however I made everybody inside.”
The final participant over 50 who closed the primary spherical inside the highest 10 was Fred Funk in 2006; he completed tied for twentieth.
Who precisely is Corey Conners?
OK, you are taking a look at all these names on the leaderboard. Mickelson and Brooks Koepka … yeah, you undoubtedly know them. Viktor Hovland, positive, one of many rising younger stars within the sport. Even Keegan Bradley sounds acquainted. In spite of everything, he gained this main championship 10 years in the past.
Nonetheless, the identify on the very prime, Conners, may not precisely ring a bell. However the 29-year-old Canadian can play. He at present stands twenty second within the FedEx Cup factors standings and has three top-10s since March. Surprise if he can deal with the massive stage, contemplating this can be a main?
Effectively, two of these top-10s got here on the Gamers Championship (seventh) and the Masters (T-8). He additionally completed tenth within the 2020 Masters again in November.
“I’ve plenty of perception in myself, and I have been enjoying effectively for fairly some time,” mentioned Conners, who has one PGA Tour win, which got here on the 2019 Valero Texas Open. “I am excited for the chance to play towards the perfect gamers on the planet and put my sport to the check.”
His demeanor, even in powerful circumstances, by no means modified. Even with a lead at a significant for the primary time, he would not anticipate something completely different on Friday.
“Form of easy tempo within the golf swing and fairly chill persona,” he mentioned.
The Koepka issue
Koepka mentioned earlier than the event started that his medical doctors mentioned it could be six extra months earlier than his ailing proper knee might be at one hundred pc. He was requested about it some extra — the affect on his sport, the constraints it causes him when he tries to learn putts. He shrugged all of it off. He mentioned none of that mattered this week.
“It is a main,” he mentioned. “I will present up. I am able to play. I have been itching to do that since Augusta [where he missed the cut]. I really feel so significantly better now. I do not should be one hundred percent to have the ability to play good.”
That was apparent Thursday. Regardless of opening with a double-bogey 6 on the tenth, his first gap of the day, Koepka carded six birdies en path to a 69. He stands in a tie for second, 2 pictures behind chief Corey Conners.
“I like it when it is troublesome,” he mentioned. “I believe that is why I accomplish that effectively within the majors. I simply know mentally I can grind it out.”
In his personal protection
Collin Morikawa positioned himself effectively to maintain his maintain on the Wanamaker Trophy. Regardless of a brief miss on the ninth, his closing gap of the day, he opened with 2-under 70 and heads into Friday’s second spherical inside the highest 10.
“I really feel like the place my sport is at proper now and the way I am hitting my irons, it feels actually strong,” mentioned Morikawa, who made considered one of simply seven birdies on the par-4 18th gap, which performed as essentially the most troublesome on the course.
As he discovered final 12 months, he’ll want extra good ballstriking, and a bit luck like he bought Thursday, to defend his title.
“On 17, I believed I fanned it within the water, [instead] I am having a two-putt par,” he mentioned, noting a wind gust really bailed him out. “So that you simply have a bit luck in your facet. Hopefully you possibly can name up these weeks that every little thing sort of goes proper.”
When the massive names hit the course
ESPN+ Featured Teams for Friday
All occasions ET
7:38 a.m. — Corey Conners, Tony Finau, Matthew Fitzpatrick
7:49 a.m. Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Padraig Harrington
8 a.m. — Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Patrick Reed
8:33 a.m. — Jordan Spieth, Will Zalatoris, Webb Simpson
1:03 p.m — Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott, Tyrrell Hatton
1:47 p.m. — Viktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele, Lee Westwood
1:58 p.m. — Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas
2:08 p.m. — Collin Morikawa, Bryson DeChambeau, Hideki Matsuyama
For all of the methods to observe on ESPN+, click here.
For the total listing of tee occasions, click here.
Bryson DeChambeau sinks the birdie on the eighth gap on the PGA Championship.
Have a look at DeChambeau transfer
Bryson DeChambeau will get scrutinized. He is aware of it. Whether or not it is for his physique transformation or his scientific strategy to the sport, every little thing he does is picked aside. One a part of his sport that has all the time been a goal has been his tempo of play. He has been criticized, greater than as soon as, for being gradual. That’s the reason Morikawa needed everybody to listen to about how DeChambeau bought round Thursday on a troublesome golf course in windy circumstances.
“I believe individuals want to present him credit score, beginning at present, that he is really selecting up the tempo,” Morikawa mentioned. “It was wonderful how briskly he really performed. I am not going to say quick, however he wasn’t gradual. You were not simply ready on him to determine no matter. Kudos to him as a result of it was windy and he had to determine some stuff for positive. However I get pleasure from it. He is a personality. He is his personal individual. That is what makes Bryson, Bryson.”
McIlroy was the favourite getting into this occasion. His first swing of the day, off the tenth tee, went into the water. He took a drop and made bogey. Worse nonetheless, he bogeyed three of the Ocean Course’s 4 par-5s. It’s the first time he has ever executed that in a significant championship, which helped clarify why he signed for a 3-over 75. In 2012, when McIlroy gained the PGA Championship on this course, he performed the par-5s in 8 beneath for the week.
Taking part in associate Justin Thomas, who gained the Gamers Championship earlier this 12 months and is trying to find his second PGA Championship, matched McIlroy together with his personal 75. They head into Friday’s second spherical in a tie for 79th. Which means they want strong rounds not simply to get again within the event, however to safe a spot for the weekend.
So, too, does 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson. He stumbled to the end, doubling his closing gap to publish 4-over 76. He stands in a tie for 98th place.
The highest 70 gamers, plus ties, advance to Saturday’s third spherical.