After the allure of Wednesday was over, Tiger Woods made his return in Valhalla Golf Club on Day 1 of the 2014 PGA Championship. Unfortunately, it was much of the same from Woods, as his inconsistencies became one of the many headlines on Thursday.
While Woods struggled to finish at three-over 74 on Day 1, several other golfers rose to the occasion to stand atop the leaderboard. One of the early leaders was Kevin Chappell, who comes in as the No. 71 golfer on the PGA Tour.
With more missed cuts (six) than top-20 finishes (four) this season, it's not likely that Chappell will remain atop the standings.
As for one familiar face, former world No. 1 Lee Westwood also staked his claim with a six-under 65 to tie with Chappell for the early lead.
Current No. 1 Rory McIlroy is still looming after a consistent round on Thursday. After a two-tournament win streak including the British Open, McIlroy is at the top of his game in Valhalla this weekend.
Here's a look at the updated leaderboard and pairings to watch on Friday.
Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy (8:35 a.m. ET)
There's a reason these guys have won major titles already this season.
After solid rounds from all three players, McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer will all take the course together again on Friday. Needless to say, they'll be worth a watch as the marquee group.
Watson and Kaymer have plenty of pressure to perform, but McIlroy has nearly every eye on him after his recent play. Quite a bit is on the line for McIlroy, but he can accomplish something last done by Woods, per John Buccigross of ESPN:
Rory McIlroy (#1 ranked again) will look to be first player to win 3 straight starts since Tiger won 5 consecutive over 07/08 seasons— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) August 4, 2014
Regardless of how the trio played on Thursday, they would be worthy of a watch at Valhalla. What makes this even more enticing is the fact that all three still have a shot to contend for the win.
While McIlroy comes in as the huge draw, the crowd was apparently more excited for the arrival of the Masters winner, per No Laying Up:
Bubba gets the loudest ovation between him, Rory, and Kaymer. You disappoint me, Kentucky.— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) August 7, 2014
Heading into Friday, all three will look to move their way further up the leaderboard to contend for a second major this season.
Rickie Fowler, Victor Dubuisson, Ernie Els (1:15 p.m. ET)
He's been overshadowed by McIlroy thus far in the last few tournaments, but Rickie Fowler has certainly put his stamp on the sport lately.
Between the U.S. Open, British Open and WGC-Bridgestone, Fowler has finished inside the top 10 in every tournament. He's also finished inside the top five in every major this season, so expectations are high for the 25-year-old player.
Following his opening round, Fowler spoke about his play at Valhalla, per the PGA Championship account:
Along with Fowler, both of his playing partners finished under par on Thursday. Victor Dubuisson was tied with Fowler after the opening round at two-under, while Ernie Els was just a stroke behind at one-under.
The veteran golfer referenced his game on Twitter following the round:
Soft bogey at the last, but overall pretty pleased @PGAChampionship. Lots of good shots and always nice to break par in R1 of a major.— Ernie Els (@TheBig_Easy) August 7, 2014
With all three in contention to make a run, Friday has the potential to be an interesting day for each member of the trio. Though the youngest player has been hot lately, the entire group will be worth watching on Day 2 from Valhalla.
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