KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina — Even earlier than a tee was formally put within the floor Thursday morning on the PGA Championship, there was a certainty curiosity. How would the golf course play? Would the wind blow a lot the most effective gamers on this planet would spend the complete week simply attempting to hold on? And, after all, which gamers would deal with the troublesome Ocean Course at Kiawah Island?
Now it is on to Spherical 2, as gamers place themselves for the weekend — and in some circumstances, strive to verify they’re nonetheless round for the weekend.
Can Phil Mickelson actually contend?
Posting a rating below par within the first spherical of a significant, whilst he crept towards 50 years previous after which previous it, wasn’t out of the abnormal for Mickelson. Nicely, there may be one catch: It normally occurred solely on the Masters, the place he has opened with a rating within the 60s 4 occasions previously 5 years.
The primary spherical of a significant outdoors the gates of Augusta Nationwide … now that is a distinct story. That’s the reason his opening-round 70, which included a 4-under, bogey-free 32 on the harder again 9 on the Ocean Course, is so shocking.
Take away the Masters and Mickelson has posted an under-par spherical to start a significant simply as soon as in his previous 10 begins. That occurred on the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. He went 13 over the subsequent three days and tied for 71st.
“Within the final couple of months I’ve been beginning to play good golf,” he mentioned after Thursday’s spherical. “I’ve had slightly hassle staying current on each shot for the complete spherical. I assumed I did a reasonably good job of that at the moment.”
On Thursday, he stood on the seventh tee at 3 over thanks to 3 consecutive bogeys and 4 in his first six holes. A birdie on the seventh steadied him. He did not make a mistake the remainder of the best way.
Nonetheless, that was only one spherical. There are three extra left on a treacherous golf course. Can this final?
“Nicely my expectations are to play good rounds as a result of I have been enjoying properly and hitting good pictures,” mentioned Mickelson, who turns 51 in June. “What I did do properly was I used to be extraordinarily strong inside 6-7 toes. I putted rather well. I did not make something outdoors of that, however I made everybody inside.”
The final participant over 50 who closed the primary spherical inside the highest 10 was Fred Funk in 2006; he completed tied for twentieth.
Who precisely is Corey Conners?
OK, you are taking a look at all these names on the leaderboard. Mickelson and Brooks Koepka … yeah, you undoubtedly know them. Viktor Hovland, certain, one of many rising younger stars within the sport. Even Keegan Bradley sounds acquainted. In any case, he gained this main championship 10 years in the past.
Nevertheless, the title on the very high, Conners, may not precisely ring a bell. However the 29-year-old Canadian can play. He presently stands twenty second within the FedEx Cup factors standings and has three top-10s since March. Marvel if he can deal with the massive stage, contemplating it is a main?
Nicely, two of these top-10s got here on the Gamers Championship (seventh) and the Masters (T-8). He additionally completed tenth within the 2020 Masters again in November.
“I’ve lots of perception in myself, and I have been enjoying properly for fairly some time,” mentioned Conners, who has one PGA Tour win, which got here on the 2019 Valero Texas Open. “I am excited for the chance to play in opposition to the most effective gamers on this planet and put my sport to the take a look at.”
His demeanor, even in powerful situations, by no means modified. Even with a lead at a significant for the primary time, he does not anticipate something completely different on Friday.
“Type of easy tempo within the golf swing and fairly chill character,” he mentioned.
The Koepka issue
Koepka mentioned earlier than the event started that his docs mentioned it could be six extra months earlier than his ailing proper knee will likely be at 100%. He was requested about it some extra — the impression on his sport, the restrictions it causes him when he tries to learn putts. He shrugged all of it off. He mentioned none of that mattered this week.
“It is a main,” he mentioned. “I’ll present up. I am able to play. I have been itching to do that since Augusta [where he missed the cut]. I really feel so significantly better now. I do not have to be 100% to have the ability to play good.”
That was apparent Thursday. Regardless of opening with a double-bogey 6 on the tenth, his first gap of the day, Koepka carded six birdies en path to a 69. He stands in a tie for second, 2 pictures behind chief Corey Conners.
“I adore it when it is troublesome,” he mentioned. “I feel that is why I achieve this properly within the majors. I simply know mentally I can grind it out.”
In his personal protection
Collin Morikawa positioned himself properly to maintain his maintain on the Wanamaker Trophy. Regardless of a brief miss on the ninth, his last gap of the day, he opened with 2-under 70 and heads into Friday’s second spherical inside the highest 10.
“I really feel like the place my sport is at proper now and the way I am hitting my irons, it feels actually strong,” mentioned Morikawa, who made one in all simply seven birdies on the par-4 18th gap, which performed as probably the most troublesome on the course.
As he came upon final yr, he’ll want extra good ballstriking, and slightly luck like he obtained Thursday, to defend his title.
“On 17, I assumed I fanned it within the water, [instead] I am having a two-putt par,” he mentioned, noting a wind gust truly bailed him out. “So that you simply have slightly luck in your aspect. Hopefully you may name up these weeks that every part form of goes proper.”
When the massive names hit the course
ESPN+ Featured Teams for Friday
All occasions ET
7:38 a.m. — Corey Conners, Tony Finau, Matthew Fitzpatrick
7:49 a.m. Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Padraig Harrington
8 a.m. — Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Patrick Reed
8:33 a.m. — Jordan Spieth, Will Zalatoris, Webb Simpson
1:03 p.m — Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott, Tyrrell Hatton
1:47 p.m. — Viktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele, Lee Westwood
1:58 p.m. — Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas
2:08 p.m. — Collin Morikawa, Bryson DeChambeau, Hideki Matsuyama
For all of the methods to look at on ESPN+, click here.
For the total listing of tee occasions, click here.
Bryson DeChambeau sinks the birdie on the eighth gap on the PGA Championship.
Take a look at DeChambeau transfer
Bryson DeChambeau will get scrutinized. He is aware of it. Whether or not it is for his physique transformation or his scientific strategy to the sport, every part he does is picked aside. One a part of his sport that has at all times been a goal has been his tempo of play. He has been criticized, greater than as soon as, for being sluggish. That’s the reason Morikawa needed everybody to listen to about how DeChambeau obtained round Thursday on a tricky golf course in windy situations.
“I feel folks want to present him credit score, beginning at the moment, that he is truly selecting up the tempo,” Morikawa mentioned. “It was superb how briskly he truly performed. I am not going to say quick, however he wasn’t sluggish. You were not simply ready on him to determine no matter. Kudos to him as a result of it was windy and he had to determine some stuff for certain. However I get pleasure from it. He is a personality. He is his personal individual. That is what makes Bryson, Bryson.”
McIlroy was the favourite getting into this occasion. His first swing of the day, off the tenth tee, went into the water. He took a drop and made bogey. Worse nonetheless, he bogeyed three of the Ocean Course’s 4 par-5s. It’s the first time he has ever carried out that in a significant championship, which helped clarify why he signed for a 3-over 75. In 2012, when McIlroy gained the PGA Championship on this course, he performed the par-5s in 8 below for the week.
Taking part in companion Justin Thomas, who gained the Gamers Championship earlier this yr and is trying to find his second PGA Championship, matched McIlroy together with his personal 75. They head into Friday’s second spherical in a tie for 79th. Meaning they want strong rounds not simply to get again within the event, however to safe a spot for the weekend.
So, too, does 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson. He stumbled to the end, doubling his last gap to put up 4-over 76. He stands in a tie for 98th place.
The highest 70 gamers, plus ties, advance to Saturday’s third spherical.