The top names could not separate themselves from the field on the first day of the 2014 PGA Championship, but they will hope to make a difference in Round 2.
Lee Westwood, Ryan Palmer and Kevin Chappell each earned a share of the lead with a 65 through the first 18 holes at Valhalla, although they took different paths to get there. The question is which players can keep up the strong play to pull away from the pack.
With Jim Furyk, Rory McIlroy and others right off the lead coming into the day, there is certain to be some shifting on the leaderboard throughout the second round.
Here is the latest leaderboard, which will be updated throughout the day, along with the top storylines to watch.
Can the Day 1 Leaders Hold On?
Of the three players coming into Friday with the lead, Westwood is most likely to keep up his success. As Jason Sobel of Golf Channel points out, he has fared well in recent years at majors:
Lee Westwood is your leader after a 6-under 65. He has eight top-three finishes in majors since the last time Tiger won one.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) August 7, 2014
Unfortunately, he has not won a title and is considered by many to be the best player on tour without a major championship. When asked about attempting to win his first this weekend, he said, "It's a frustrating game," via Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN.com.
Still, his putting was outstanding in the first round, gaining an incredible 3.038 strokes on the green. If he can keep this up, he will have a great chance of finally earning that win.
On the other hand, fans should not count out either Chappell or Palmer from sticking around over the next three days. Chappell has especially proved himself in his limited time in majors, according to ESPN Stats & Info:
Kevin Chappell shares the PGA Champ. clubhouse lead at -6. This is his 6th major; best result was 3rd at 2011 U.S. Open.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 7, 2014
Chappell had a bogey-free opening round, and Palmer impressed with five birdies on the back nine. They both have the talent to keep up their high level of play, but it will not be easy.
Is Rory McIlroy the Favorite?
McIlroy does not have the lead, but he might have as good a chance as anyone at winning this tournament. Alex Myers of Golf Digest magazine breaks down how likely a win really is for the 25-year-old star:
McIlroy is coming off consecutive wins at The Open Championship and the Bridgestone Invitational and is in good shape to come away with a third victory in a row. He totaled eight birdies in his first round, including five in his last seven holes.
However, the round was not perfect. He suffered mightily with this poor shot from the fairway on No. 10:
That led to a double bogey and then a bogey on the 11th hole. In the past, that probably would have led to a complete collapse for McIlroy. This time was different, though, as he rallied for four birdies in a row to move back up the leaderboard.
After the round, the player explained the importance of this type of reaction:
With McIlroy's pure talent in all phases of the game, the only thing holding him back has been his mental strength. If he can add that to his arsenal, he could easily keep his momentum going to win yet another major title.
Which Stars Will Jump into Contention?
While the current leaders gain most of the attention, there are still 54 holes for each player to make up ground after the first round. There are 78 competitors at even par or better, and any one of them can come back with a strong showing on Day 2.
One person to keep an eye on is Adam Scott, who has consistently been among the best at majors lately, according to Justin Ray of Golf Channel:
Jim Furyk in with 66. Furyk and Adam Scott are the only 2 players to finish top-15 in each of the last 4 majors.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) August 7, 2014
He and Jordan Spieth each finished at even par, but they both have the ability to make a run over the next three days after proving themselves at big events throughout the year.
Bubba Watson also had a solid day thanks to his eagle on No. 7:
While he fell apart a bit down the stretch, his 70 keeps him in the running when you factor in his 334-yard driving average from the day.
Finally, Phil Mickelson ended his round just four strokes off the lead despite being two over at one point. He came back with four birdies to finish at 69 and in a tie for 20th place.
According to Steve Jones of The Courier-Journal, Lefty explained that his struggles have been mental:
I just need to get up on the first tee with a little more confidence. When you're not in contention, when you haven't won a tournament, when you haven't played the way you expect to and you're not in the final groups for a while, you get nervous, and that's exactly what happened. I made some unconfident swings. I need to make confident, aggressive swings from the first hole, first shot from here on.
If he can keep his momentum going from the second half of Thursday, he will be back in the hunt to win his sixth career major.
Note: All stats courtesy of PGATour.com.
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