The first day of the 2014 PGA Championship showed that it will take a low score to win at Valhalla.
Lee Westwood, Ryan Palmer and Kevin Chappell each finished six under on the par-71 course to tie for the lead. Meanwhile, a number of other talented players with plenty of experience performing well at majors are still in the hunt, such as Jim Furyk and Rory McIlroy.
With dozens of players under par, though, this tournament is truly up for grabs for anyone capable of posting birdies over the next three days.
Here is a look at the leaderboard after the first day of action in Louisville, Kentucky:
Westwood had an impressive nine birdies to card a 65, overcoming a double bogey on No. 1. The veteran's putting was incredible throughout the day, as he made almost everything that was within reasonable range.
His best shot of the day was his last one, as he nailed a 40-foot putt to give him his fourth birdie in a row:
Westwood still has not won a major, and he is hoping his final one of the year can make the difference.
It was more surprising to see Chappell among the top names on the leaderboard after the young player earned just a single top-10 finish in 2014. However, he ended with a bogey-free day to match Westwood and Palmer at six strokes under par.
Just off the lead is Furyk, who was his normal consistent self en route to a 66. Golf Channel broke down his numbers from the day:
Furyk has finished in the top 15 of every major in 2014 and had a second-place showing in The Players Championship. Considering his strong performances in big tournaments to this point, it would not be surprising to see the veteran remain in contention all week.
McIlroy had one of the more interesting rounds of the field on his way to a 66. After a 32 on the front nine, he had an up-and-down showing to start the back nine. Jason Sobel of Golf Channel recapped the action:
Rory McIlroy's last seven holes: Birdie-double-bogey-birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) August 7, 2014
The superstar ended up notching one more birdie before the day was done to put himself in good position to win his third tournament in a row. However, you can imagine he will regret this poor shot that ended up preventing him from taking the lead:
He is instead tied with Henrik Stenson, Edoardo Molinari, Chris Wood and Furyk at one stroke off the leaders.
One of the best shots from Thursday came from an unlikely source. Club pro Johan Kok drilled a 97-foot putt from off the green to get an eagle on the 10th hole:
Although he will not be in contention this weekend, this was certainly a moment he will remember for a long time.
Unfortunately, the day was not great for everyone. Tiger Woods struggled while starting on the back nine, bogeying two of his first five holes. He finished with an opening score of 74, which was pretty poor compared to the rest of the field, as Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports noted:
Tiger has finished his round. So have exactly 100 other golfers. He has beaten 14 of them.— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelCBS) August 7, 2014
"It wasn’t very good," Woods said after his round, via Brian Wacker of PGATour.com. A lot of bad shots, and I never got a putt to the hole. ...My swing was dialed in on that range out there. Unfortunately, I didn't carry it to the golf course."
Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports gave his recap of the high-profile pairing of Woods, Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington:
Phil: rallied, finished well, in a good spot; Paddy: started well, wobbled, played more and more slowly; Tiger: meh.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) August 7, 2014
Meanwhile, defending champion Jason Dufner also had a disappointing showing. After starting eight strokes over par through 10 holes, a lingering neck injury forced him to withdraw from the tournament, as Stephanie Wei of Sports Illustrated reported:
Well, there goes another one. Defending champ Jason Dufner, who has been battling neck issues, has withdrawn from the PGA Championship.— Stephanie Wei (@StephanieWei) August 7, 2014
Will Brinson of CBS Sports noted how bad things might be with Dufner:
Jason Dufner told TNT on playing next: “it could be 2 weeks…it could be next year, it could be never again …”— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) August 7, 2014
While this is a disappointing turn of events, it means there will be a new winner at this year's PGA Championship. With so many talented players on the leaderboard, it is anyone's tournament to win.
The only question is which player will pull away in the next three days to come away with the major title.
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