PGA Championship 2014 Results: Biggest Winners and Losers from Day 1
With little wind and just the right amount of cloud cover to make the greens soft and receptive, golfers had their way with Valhalla Golf Club in the opening round of the 96th PGA Championship on Thursday.
When the day wrapped up, Lee Westwood, Kevin Chappell and Ryan Palmer were in a three-way tie atop the leaderboard. All three—who fired six-under scores of 65 on the par-71 layout—are seeking their first major championship.
Five others shot five-under 66s to lurk just one stroke back of the lead, including three-time major winner and 2014 British Open champ Rory McIlroy, who had to rally after a disastrous 10th hole. He is tied with Jim Furyk, Edoardo Molinari, Henrik Stenson and Chris Wood.
And yet much of the attention on the day centered around Tiger Woods, as Chris Korman of USA Today explained: "What’s undeniable ... is that Woods still captivates his audience, both those hoping that he returns to form and those contented seeing him struggle."
Read on to see which it was for Tiger in Thursday's opening round, as well as who else ranked among the winners and losers.
Winner: Kevin Chappell
Forgive yourself if you are unfamiliar with Kevin Chappell, who fired a bogey-free six-under 65 to finish tied for the lead after the first round.
Chappell, 28, has never won a PGA Tour event, although he has twice finished among the top 10 in the U.S. Open since 2011. This is only the second PGA Championship he's played in, having missed the cut last year.
That's not likely to happen this time out.
"I guess I was in a good rhythm out there. Drove the ball well," Chappell told reporters after Thursday's round, per Nick Masuda of Golfweek. "Hit a lot of greens and gave myself some opportunities and I was able to take advantage of it, something that hasn't happened a lot for me this year."
Mostly, he made putts, needing only 24 to complete his round. For a guy who came in ranked 169th on the PGA Tour in putts made from five to 10 feet, that made a huge difference.
Loser: Angel Cabrera
There was a time not long ago when it seemed Angel Cabrera was a contender in just about every major he played in.
Not so this year, and especially not so Thursday, as he shot an 11-over 82 in his opening round.
During one stretch on the back nine—from the 11th through 15th holes—Cabrera went bogey, bogey, bogey, double bogey, double bogey. When he finally registered his second birdie of the day on No. 17, he gave the stroke right back with yet another bogey on No. 18.
All in all, it was a horrible day for the 2007 U.S. Open and 2009 Masters champion.
Winner: Edoardo Molinari
The good news is that Edoardo Molinari shot a first-round 66 that left him just one shot off the field at five under. The bad news is that Molinari thought he could have done better.
Or is that good news for Molinari and bad news for the rest of the field going forward? Time will tell.
As it was, the 33-year-old Italian opened his day with a birdie at the first hole and then solidified his place on the leaderboard with four birdies in a row beginning on the seventh. Molinari is coming off of a strong run in the British Open, where he finished tied for seventh.
"My game obviously wasn’t as good as it has been in the last few months but it is nice to shoot five under and know there is something for improvement," Molinari told Sky Sports. "It's great to have such a good opening round because you don’t have to do any catching up. I just need to keep playing well and see what happens Sunday night."
Loser: Boo Weekley
All you need to know about Boo Weekley's day is that he shot a nine-over 80.
He had a whole lot more fun playing Valhalla in 2008 when he was a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team. On the final day of that event, he stole a page from the movie Happy Gilmore, simulating riding a bull after hitting his first tee shot.
"I won't ever forget it," Weekley told GolfChannel.com's Rex Hoggard (via PGA.com's T.J. Auclair)."I went up there and I took my practice swing and it hit me right then. As I took my second practice swing, I always take two, there's a tree out there about 200 yards. I said, 'If I can just start it over that tree, I'm going to ride this club out of here.'"
Nope. He won't ever forget that. He might not ever forget Thursday's opening round, either, as much as he would like to try.
Winners: Tiger Woods and Golf Fans Everywhere
Tiger Woods sprayed shots all over the course—pumping one about seven rows deep into the gallery and another into a creek—and ended with a three-over 74 that left him nine shots off the lead.
But the fact that Woods was playing at all was a win-win-win for him, the PGA and fans alike. His status had been in doubt until Wednesday after he had been forced to withdraw from the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational because of back pain just last Sunday.
For Woods, he made it through the round without experiencing any further debilitating back pain. For tournament organizers, Woods' presence created a buzz that arguably had been missing, and for the fans, well, all one had to do was watch the crowds that followed Woods' every shot Thursday to understand that he remains the most polarizing player in the game.
"I thought he played with a lot of heart," Phil Mickelson, one of Woods' playing partners, told Doug Ferguson of The Associated Press (via PGA.com) after the round. "It's not easy when your game isn't where you want it and you're hitting shots that you don't normally hit to fight hard."
Loser: Jason Dufner
Defending champion Jason Dufner's neck injury, which required an epidural injection just last Monday, eventually became too painful for him to continue, forcing him to withdraw after only 10 holes on Thursday.
"I'm probably not going to be healthy until I can take six to eight weeks off," Dufner told Kyle Porter of CBS Sports earlier in the week. "Not sure when that's going to be. But I'll get through it."
It was commendable that Dufner attempted to defend his 2013 PGA Championship title. But it quickly became obvious that he was in too much pain to play effectively, as he finished his front nine with a five-over 40 and then followed up with a triple bogey on the par-five 10th.
"I'll play golf again when I'm healthy," Dufner told Porter after his round ended prematurely. "That could be at The Barclays, that could be next year, that could be 2016. I refuse to be out here and not be healthy and not give myself a chance to be competitive."
Winner (For Now): Jim Furyk
At least Jim Furyk isn't quite in the lead after an opening-round 66 that has him one shot behind the leaders.
Furyk probably would rather be right there going into the final round Sunday than in the lead, considering he's blown the lead the last seven times he's had it after 54 holes.
So excuse us if we don't get too excited about Furyk's opening round. Like SuperSport.com points out, his "streak of blown 54-hole leads reached seven just two weeks ago" at the Canadian Open.
Furyk also squandered a lead going into the final round of last year's PGA Championship and obviously is well aware of his problem, having recently spent some time with sports psychologist Bob Rotella in an attempt to make sure his mind is right the next time he's in such a position, according to SuperSport.com.
Losers: McIlroy, Kaymer and Watson on No. 10
The star-studded threesome made up of the first three major tournament winners of 2014—Masters champion Bubba Watson, U.S. Open winner Martin Kaymer and British Open champ Rory McIlroy—arrived at the 590-yard, par-five 10th hole dreaming of eagles.
But each experienced his own form of disaster, none worse than McIlroy. Attempting to reach the green in two from 224 yards out, he hooked his second shot some 30 yards off-line and out of bounds to the left. Then he hit his next shot, a provisional, a good 20-25 yards to the left and had to scramble from there to make a double bogey.
Kaymer, meanwhile, overshot the green with his third shot and then lipped out a short par putt, forcing him to settle for a bogey. Watson parred the hole, but he wasn't happy, either. The lefty pulled his second shot from a similar distance as McIlroy's second, some 15 to 20 yards to the right, and then seemingly recovered with a brilliant chip shot to four feet, only to miss the subsequent putt.
Winner: Ryan Palmer
Ryan Palmer lipped out for par on the eighth hole when he was attempting to maintain a one-stroke lead on the rest of the field.
His subsequent par on his final hole forced him to settle for a six-under 65 that left him tied for the lead with Kevin Chappell and Lee Westwood. All in all, it was an unexpectedly great day for the American, who is seeking his first PGA Tour victory in four years.
Palmer, who last won in January 2010 in Hawaii, made his charge early and then held on. He made five birdies on the back nine—his opening side of the day—and then made a stunning chip at the fifth from 35 feet that found the bottom of the cup to move into a tie for the lead.
He eventually got all the way to seven under but fell back when he bogeyed his 17th hole.
Loser: J.B. Holmes
J.B. Holmes is one of the better drivers on the PGA Tour. And with the long Valhalla course set up for big hitters, he was taking full advantage of his abilities on Day 1—until he ran into trouble with a short approach shot to the green on the 350-yard, par-four 13th hole.
Holmes chunked his approach into the water fronting the green and ended up taking a double bogey in the shortest par four on the course.
Holmes did play the other 17 holes well, sinking a birdie putt on No. 18 to finish with a respectable three-under 68. But he no doubt could not shake the feeling that one poor shot on No. 13 cost him a much better opening score.
Winners: Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy
While Lee Westwood has every right to be pleased with himself and his game after firing a first-round 65 that left him tied for the lead at six under, it was Rory McIlroy who played perhaps the most impressive stretch of golf after his struggles at No. 10.
Following that double bogey and a bogey on his very next hole, McIlroy played brilliantly down the stretch. He carded birdies on his next four holes and five of his last seven—and that was with putts that burned the edges for possible birdies on the only two he parred, as well as on No. 18, when he narrowly missed running in an eagle.
McIlroy's stretch run almost overshadowed Westwood's brilliant morning round, even though it still left the 2014 British Open champ with a five-under 66 that placed him one shot behind Westwood and two others tied atop the leaderboard.
It will be fun to see where the pair goes from here.
"I played well, hit a lot fairways, putted nicely," Westwood said, per Ben Everill of The Sydney Morning Herald, after racking up a total of nine birdies, one bogey and a double. "I gave myself a lot of chances. All in all, there were no real weaknesses out there."
McIlroy told TNT's Vince Cellini in a post-round television interview that he was annoyed with himself after his miscues on Nos. 10 and 11, adding: "It could have been better if a couple of those putts had dropped. But a 66 is a solid round and I'll take it. ... I've got a good thing going right now and I'm just trying to ride the momentum."
"McIlroy was really the horse out in front by Secretariat lengths."