Thomas Pieters continues flitting between the ridiculous and the sublime. He sends a 30-foot tramliner into the cup at 3 for his second bounce-back birdie in three holes. Once again he’s -2, but for how much longer, one way or another? If recent behaviour is anything to go by, not very much.
Bounce-back birdie for Adam Scott! After another booming drive / gentle wedge combo, he picks up a stroke at 10 to return to -3. Also moving up the leaderboard: Eric Cole, who nearly won the Honda Classic back in February, and is playing in the PGA Championship for the first time. The 34-year-old late bloomer cards back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15 to rise to -2. Cole’s in the last match starting from 10 this evening. There is no way this round will be completed tonight.
South Korea already has a PGA champion: YE Yang, who became the first man to overhaul Tiger Woods on the Sunday at a major while winning in 2009. Yang is here this year, but having played the back nine in 34 strokes, has just bogeyed 1, doubled 2, and bogeyed 3 to drop to +3 in double-quick time. Some of his younger compatriots, hotly tipped this year, are also struggling. Tom Kim is +3 after 10*, Im Sung-jae is +4 through 9*, and KH Lee shot 73 earlier on. Kim Si-woo is hanging on in there a little better, though: the 2017 Players champion is +1 having played the back nine in 36.
Consistency is coming at a premium for Thomas Pieters right now. Having bounced back from bogey at 18 with birdie at 1, he now drops another shot at 2 and drops to -1.
Justin Rose missed the hole completely from a couple of feet at 5. So he’s done really well to bounce back from that utterly unnecessary double bogey with birdie at 6. He waltzes off the green with a great big smile on his face. He doesn’t seem to be playing with too much regret or inhibition. He’s -1.
… but there’s still a couple of hours of action to go at least. Adam Scott pays the penalty for a wild drive at 9. Always chasing position, he ends up with bogey and slips back to -2. Along with Sepp Straka (11*) and Thomas Pieters (10*), he’s the lowest scorer of the second wave of starters right now.
The sun will set in Rochester at 8.30pm local time today. Pretty sure the first round won’t be completed this evening. Goddamn morning frost!
Bounce-back birdie for Thomas Pieters at 1. He returns to -2. He’s one of just 17 players under par right now. There are 121 over it.
Rory McIlroy speaks to Sky. “Pretty erratic … pretty nasty … didn’t have my best stuff … I actually felt I did really well to shoot one over in the end … I played OK on the way in but will have to play a lot better than that if I’m to have a chance … I’m a little under the weather but I’m OK … it’s nice that it’s not too warm out there … nothing that a lot of vitamin C and a lot of rest will manage it … hopefully I’ll be a little better tomorrow.”
Dustin Johnson makes his first move of the day. He drains a 30-footer across 7 and rises to -1. Meanwhile up on 8, Adam Scott sends another 365-yard bomb down the track, wedges close, and is suddenly just one off the lead at -3! But a double bogey for Justin Rose on 5, the punishment for finding the deep bunker to the left of the green, then yipping a short bogey putt. Hartley Wintney’s finest drops back to -1.
-4: DeChambeau (F)
-3: Scheffler (F), Conners (F), Scott (8)
Bogey for Thomas Pieters at 18. He’s still played the back nine in 34 strokes, though, and remains both in red figures and the top ten.
Tony Finau hasn’t been able to arrest that awful start. He’s now followed up that aforementioned double bogey at 5 with further dropped shots at 6 and 7. That’s five shots gone in four holes, and at +5 needs something to happen quickly. Already. Sending his tee shot at 8 into thick oomska down the left won’t help much.
Putt of the day made by Pablo Larrazabal on 17. A huge 45-foot left-to-right swinger that always looks like dropping. A thing of beauty. It’s his first birdie of the day after a run of seven pars. He’s -1.
Bogey for Sepp Straka on 18. He leaves his second stuck on the side of a rough-strewn bank, short-sided, and can’t get close with his delicate chip up. His first backward step of the day, and he slips down to -2.
Another birdie for Justin Rose! He whistles his tee shot at the par-three 3rd to ten feet, and makes no mistake with the putt. He’s -2. He could – should – soon be joined there by Adam Scott, who takes advantage of the wind blowing down 6 to send his drive 365 yards. He wedges his second from 130 yards to four feet, and yes, in it goes. A few of the afternoon starters are beginning to make their move.
-4: DeChambeau (F)
-3: Scheffler (F), Conners (F), Straka (8*)
-2: Fox (F), Hovland (F), Bradley (F), Pieters (8*), Scott (6), Rose (3)
Brooks versus Patrick Cantlay would be the most entertaining LIV v PGA pairing in the last group on Sunday, by any available comedic metric, or sliding scale of amusement. Of course it would, given the two-speed narrative of the Masters. Fingers crossed, though Koepka shot 72 earlier today, while Cantlay is just (just!) level par through four holes. But there’s a long way to go.
The Masters ended up as a PGA v LIV battle between Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka. Any chance of a similar dynamic this week? Of course there is, with Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler currently leading the way. There’s some LIV backup coming over the hill, too, with new recruit Thomas Pieters making birdies at 13 and 16 to move to -2, just two behind. Whatever your view on the tour brouhaha, you can’t say it hasn’t added a little extra spice.
Tony Finau was another player hotly tipped to make his major breakthrough this week. But he’s already in a spot of bother. Bogey at 4, followed by double at the par-three 5th, the result of sending his tee shot into thick rough to the left of the green, then failing to dig it out. A second attempt doesn’t go close, and two putts later he’s +3.
Tyrrell Hatton has been in hot form recently. He might be in a hot mood right now, however, having opened with a bogey followed by a double at 2. He’s +3 in the blink of an eye. But a fast start for his compatriot Justin Rose, who pours in a 15-footer at 1 to move into red figures immediately. A long birdie effort nearly drops at 2, as well, but -1 is where he remains, and a most acceptable start by the 2013 US Open winner.
Sepp Straka became the first Austrian to win on the PGA Tour last year, pipping Shane Lowry to the Honda Classic. The 30-year-old’s record in the majors is dismal, though, with a tie for 28th at the 2019 US Open his best return. But he’s started strongly here this afternoon. Birdies at 10 and 12, then a booming 367-yard drive down 16, followed by a wedge to three feet, and all of a sudden he’s the one hot property of the later starters out there on the course right now.
-4: DeChambeau (F)
-3: Scheffler (F), Conners (F), Straka (7*)
-2: Fox (F), Hovland (F), Bradley (F)
It was a poor day for the reigning US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick. A 76 and while he’s not down among the dead men – nobody will be writing off Jon Rahm, also +6, quite yet, for example – he’ll really have to go some to recover. Just a steady shedding of shots, and no birdies.
The third member of that DeChambeau-Bradley group is coming off a fantastic week. Jason Day won the Byron Nelson last Sunday, his first Tour win in over five years. But an emotional victory, on Mother’s Day in the wake of losing his own, seems to have taken a toll. A six-over round of 76, and the 35-year-old Aussie won’t be adding to his 2016 title this year.
DeChambeau shoots 66
Bryson finds the centre of the 9th in two fuss-free strokes. He’s got a 25-footer uphill for birdie, but seriously underhits it, leaving an unnecessary three-foot knee-knocker. But in it pops, and he’s leading the PGA Championship right now. That’s a brilliant round of 66. His playing partner Keegan Bradley meanwhile finishes with a bogey, but he’ll be happy enough with his 68.
-4: DeChambeau (F)
-3: Scheffler (F), Conners (F)
-2: Fox (F), Hovland (F), Straka (6*)
Adam Scott is in good form at the moment. He demonstrates that by arrowing his tee shot at the long par-three 3rd to six feet. In goes the putt, and that’s only the eighth birdie of the day on this difficult hole. The 2013 Masters champion is -1.
A terrible start to the round by Xander Schauffele. Bogey at 1, followed by a complete mess at the par-four 2nd: a chip bladed through the green and down a swale, two efforts to get back up, and a putt for double bogey. He’s +3 in short order.
Mickelson powers his second at the 1st into the heart of the green. No mean feat from the deep rough. Two putts later and the nearly-53-year-old walks off with his par. Also happy with par: Bryson DeChambeau on 8, after lagging a 72-foot putt to kick-in distance. He stays one clear at the top at -4.
Callum Tarren gets up and down from 70 yards on 18. It’s only for bogey, but it limits the damage, especially after dropping a shot on the previous hole, and the 32-year-old from Darlington ends with a very creditable 71. He’s +1. A disappointing finish to his round, but he’ll feel a whole lot better having given a potential double the bodyswerve.
Here comes Lefty! Phil Mickelson is back at the PGA, in which he’s teeing it up for the 30th time. His opening drive is a big slice into bother down the left. One way or another, he’s not a man who will die wondering. Back on 7, a break for Keegan Bradley, whose second nestles between two bunkers. His chip is overly aggressive and he’s fortunate again when he clatters the flagstick. He’s left with a six-footer for par instead of a chip … but he can’t make the putt. A bogey drops him back to -3. DeChambeau meanwhile is snookered by the bunker, rather than in it, but he loops over the flag to eight feet before making the par saver. That’s one hell of an up and down. The 2020 US Open champion now leads on his own.
-4: DeChambeau (16*)
-3: Scheffler (F), Conenrs (F), Bradley (16*)
Cam Smith closes with a bogey. The Open champion ends the day having taken 72 lashes. Meanwhile I probably shouldn’t have mentioned the Bradley-DeChambeau inspiration thing, because now, DeChambeau having found sand down one side of 7, Bradley does the same down the other. Apologies to both for rattling the golfing gods.
Keegan Bradley and Bryson DeChambeau are going round together, and giving each other plenty of inspiration. DeChambeau sticks an approach dead at 6 for a kick-in birdie; Bradley matches his score and the pair leap into a share of the lead. But there’s trouble afoot for Bryson on 7 as he sends his second into a deep bunker front right. Not a lot of green to work with from there.
-4: Bradley (15*), DeChambeau (15*)
-3: Scheffler (F), Conners (F)
The last two holes of Jordan Spieth’s round: birdie at 8, bogey at 9. His form in microcosm, and he signs for a 73. He’s +3. Par for his playing partner Victor Hovland, who is sat nicely at -2 after his 68. Completing the group, Shane Lowry, who bogeys for a 73. The 2019 Open champion never really recovered his equilibrium after thinning a bunker shot through the short par-four 14th, then nearly sending his following shot back into the same trap. Plenty of curse words after that, let me tell you.
Kazuki Higa flew out of the blocks this morning. A birdie putt lipped out at 10, but then he made four of them on consecutive holes between 11 and 14. Since reaching the heady heights of -4, however, it was all downhill again: a bogey at 17, then a nightmare end to his round: double at 6, then bogeys at 7, 8 and 9. The world number 99 would have almost certainly taken a 72 at the start of play, but he won’t feel so good signing his name to one now. He’s +2.
Birdie for Jon Rahm at 8. Only problem for the Masters champion being, the previous two holes saw him make bogey and double bogey. Throw in the way his game unravelled around the turn – bogeys at 16, 17, 18, 2 and 3 – and the world number one is +6. The grand slam, the longest of long shots at the best of times, looks a proper pipe dream already.
It was a disappointing end to Brooks Koepka’s round. The 2018 and 2019 champion sent his approach at 9 into a bunker, and he couldn’t make the sandy save. He ended up signing for a two-over 72.
A par up 9 for Rory McIlroy, and he’ll feel pretty good about his 71 given where he was on 2, standing at the bottom of a swale staring bogey or worse in the face. One outrageous 37-foot putt up the hill later, he’d saved his par, since when he’s picked up a couple of shots. He’s +1, a shot better off than his playing partner, the defending champion Justin Thomas, who follows up his double at 6 with a closing bogey. He’s +2. The third member of the match, Collin Morikawa, ends up with a 71 as well, unable to salvage par from an awkward position nestled up against the collar of the green. Just the one shot between them all, but it’s McIlroy who finished the day with the wind at his back.
67 for Conners
A quiet par-par end to Corey Conners’ round. The Canadian signs for a 67 and a current share of the early clubhouse lead. He’s -3. Meanwhile Jordan Spieth finally moves in the right direction again, steering in a gentle right-to-left slider from 12 feet on 8 for his first birdie since his fourth hole of the day. He’s +2 again and high-fives his caddy Michael Greller accordingly.
Frustration for Sahith Theegala on 18. A short par putt lips out, and he’s finished a previously promising round with three straight bogeys. He ends up signing for a one-over 71, having once been three under for his round.
67 for Scheffler
A birdie for the newly svelte Bryson DeChambeau at the par-five 4th. He joins the leaders at -3, though Scottie Scheffler briefly threatens to pull ahead again, but his 15-foot birdie effort on 9 lips out. He nearly drops his putter onto the top of his head during a contortion of frustration, but settles down quickly enough and signs for a brilliant 67. His first bogey-free round in a major.
Rory McIlroy grabs back that shot he dropped at 5. He darts his approach at 8 from 134 yards to six feet. He knocks the birdie putt into the centre of the cup and moves back to +1. Given the state his game, and perhaps his noggin, was in when he stood at the bottom of that swale behind 2, putter in hand, a round of 71 would be one hell of an achievement and something to build on for the rest of the week. He’s one par away from a huge confidence boost.
Thanks Luke. That’s a decent round of 68 by Ryan Fox. Just the ten players under par, and two of those have only just started their rounds. It’s been testing all right.
-3: Scheffler (17*), Conners (17), Bradley (12*)
-2: Fox (F), Hovland (15*), DeChambeau (12*)
-1: Tarren (15), Suh (13), Kaewkanjana (2*), Buckley (2)
Well, Rory McIlroy is neither at the top of the leaderboard nor at the bottom, but he is two over par after 15 holes and tied 28th. Not exactly flying … Conners, Scheffler and Bradley are the co-leaders at three under. Now, Scott Murray is back and ready to take you through the rest of this first round. Over to you Scott.
Rahm drops another shot and he’s five over. Not good.
Scheffler, who is getting his work done unfussily and impressively, rolls in a birdie putt at the eighth to nab a share of the lead on three under.
The commentator tells us he’s never had a bogey-free round during his career at the majors … and now he’s just one hole away from achieving the feat.
Rory McIlroy rolls in for a par and is two over.
Jon Rahm is having a poor day so far and is four over through 12 holes.
In other news, Keegan Bradley has birdied three out of four holes to earn a share of the lead on three under … including this belter:
Hovland misses a long par putt at the sixth, directing it quite a bit to the right, and he (like Conners) will drop a shot. So Conners will be the outright leader on three under.