A lot of action took place in the first round of the PGA Championship. One would have to say, though, the subject of Tiger Woods’ 77 was one of the least surprising thing in the first round. Maybe Woods was expected to shoot a bit lower, but unless you still believe the world is flat, that round was pretty foreseeable.
Woods opening round in seven-over, after starting the day three-under-par through five holes, is his highest opening round score in a major. His previous high was a 76, which he shot on three occasions (US Open 1996, 2006 and Masters 2009). Tiger’s previous highest score at the PGA Championship was 75 (1997, 2004, 2005 and 2009).
Woods has missed the cut three times in 61 major championships, twice as a professional (2006 US Open and 2009 British Open) and once as an amateur (1996). He also withdrew from the 1995 U.S. Open as an amateur. He has yet to miss the cut at the PGA Championship.
Steve Stricker also went and did what you could expect of him on a layout like this. This is his kind of course, and though you would expect some strong play from this American, Stricker even went and matched the all-time low round in a major championship shooting a bogey-free seven-under-par 63 to match Atlanta Athletic Club’s competitive course record, shared now with Mark O’Meara who shot 63 in the second round in 2001.
Stricker shot a 30 on the back nine, including his play on the challenging finishing stretch of holes 15-18. Stricker was the only player to go through holes 15-18 at two-under-par, including birdies on the 15th and 18th holes, which played as the two most difficult holes on the course. Stricker was also the only player in the field to birdie those two holes. By playing 15-18 at two-under-par, Stricker gained 3.5 strokes on the field as the four-hole stretch played to an average of 1.526 strokes over par.
In between Bubba Watson first had the longest birdie streak and then the second longest bogey streak of the day. First four birdies on a string, then five bogeys in a row. Only Robert McClellan topped that one with a series of six bogeys.
Adam Scott could really have made people keep talking about him if it wasn't for back to back bogeys for a 69, but the Aussie with the well known caddy is still in the race.
And so is the kid from Holywood. There was, however, no acting in the way Rory McIlroy handled the crisis situation of a swollen wrist after hitting a root in the beginning of his late round. With a full swing and the courage of a cool fighter, the Irish fought his way out of a scenario that for a long time looked like his early exit.
A spokesman for ISM (McIlroy’s management team) released the following statement: “The initial diagnosis shows that Rory has strained a tendon in his right wrist. He will obviously rest it tonight and he will see how it feels in the morning on the range.” McIlroy has an second round 8:35 am tee time.
While grinding his way around the Atlanta course in par, McIlroy’s fellow countryman and Open Champion Darren Clarke, did not do well, maybe because of all the breaks the group had to take because of the treatment of Rory’s wrist. Clarke shot 78 while Masters Champion and third man in the ball Charl Schwartzel shot 71.
While Stricker and McIlroy made the biggest headline, the matter of age made way to a funny detail: All of the first four players on the top of the leader board is more than 40 years of age.
Stricker (-7) and Jerry Kelly (-5) are both 44 years old, while Shaun Micheel (-4) is 42 and Scott Verplank (-3) is 47.
Five players in their 40s have won the PGA Championship, most recently Vijay Singh (41) in 2004. With records dating back to 1992, this is the first time that the top four players after any round at the PGA Championship are all in their 40s.