KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Amid the wind and the havoc at Kiawah Island, there was a semblance of simplicity to the best way Corey Conners navigated his means across the Ocean Course for a 5-under 67 and a two-shot lead Thursday within the PGA Championship.
He birdied all of the par 5s. He made a few lengthy putts for birdie. He dropped just one shot. The scorecard alone made it appear like a stroll on the seaside.
It simply did not really feel that means.
“I would say it is unimaginable to be stress-free round this golf course,” Conners mentioned. “You’ll be able to’t go to sleep on the market on any holes. It’s extremely difficult. I used to be lucky to have day. Made it as least annoying as attainable on myself.”
With a stiff wind into his face for his final 5 holes, the 29-year-old Canadian golfer performed the robust closing stretch in 2 below, a type of birdies got here after sinking a 55-foot putt from simply in need of the inexperienced.
He led by two photographs over a half-dozen gamers. That group included Brooks Koepka, who began his day with a double bogey and stayed largely out of bother the remainder of the best way; and Cameron Davis, who overcame a triple bogey on the sixth gap.
Keegan Bradley, Viktor Hovland, Aaron Wise and Sam Horsfield additionally had been at 69. The seven gamers to interrupt 70 had been the fewest for the opening spherical of the PGA Championship since there have been 5 at Hazeltine in 2002.
“I undoubtedly knew in my preparation that it was attainable to have a good spherical out right here and shoot a 5-, 6-under par spherical,” Conners mentioned. “So type of began the day considering, ‘Why not me?’ There’s birdies available.”
Nobody wanted them like Koepka, a significant presence when circumstances are extreme. One gap into this main, he had purpose to be extra frightened about his mind than his ailing proper knee.
His opening tee shot on the tenth gap at Kiawah Island was struck poorly and did not fairly clear a waste space. Koepka tried to do an excessive amount of from a gentle lie within the sand and barely acquired it out. It led to a double bogey, and the hardest a part of the Ocean Course was nonetheless to come back.
However it is a main, and that is Koepka, and that is when he is at his greatest. He knuckled down from that mess by operating off six birdies the remainder of the best way.
“You’ll be able to’t try this stuff if you wish to win. You have simply acquired to be extra centered,” mentioned Koepka, who has performed solely twice prior to now three months due to surgical procedure to restore ligaments in his knee. “I do not know if that is a scarcity of not enjoying or what. It was simply silly. I used to be capable of recuperate, I suppose.”
So did 50-year-old Phil Mickelson, who had 4 bogeys by six holes and nothing however birdies and pars the remainder of the best way to hitch the big group at 70 that included defending champion Collin Morikawa and former U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland.
Extra telling had been these on the opposite aspect of par, a few of whom will probably be scrambling to make it to the weekend.
Dustin Johnson, the No. 1 participant on the planet within the midst of his worst stretch in almost two years, took a double bogey from a wild tee shot on the entrance 9 and a double bogey on the 18th for a 76. He is in jeopardy of lacking the lower in consecutive majors in the identical yr for the primary time in his profession.
Justin Thomas took double bogey on the 18th gap within the morning and two holes later despatched a sand shot over the inexperienced and simply right into a hazard for an additional 6 on the par-5 second. He had a 75.
Rory McIlroy, coming off a victory at Quail Hole two weeks in the past, despatched his opening tee shot right into a water hazard. He salvaged a bogey, however actually not his spherical. McIlroy made bogey on three of the par 5s for a 75, his worst begin ever in a PGA Championship.
Jordan Spieth, who wants a victory to finish the profession Grand Slam, shot 73.
The PGA of America moved up tee containers, as anticipated, to account for the wind. The course performed to 7,660 yards — 178 yards shorter than the scorecard — although that did not make it straightforward. Thomas, for one, nonetheless hit 7-wood into the 214-yard seventeenth.
John Daly was amongst 12 gamers who shot within the 80s. On the 30-year anniversary of his PGA Championship victory at Crooked Stick, he shot 85.
There have been birdies available, and errors to be made, and Martin Laird was instance of each. So wild was his spherical that he made bogey on No. 12, ran off 4 straight birdies after which closed with two bogeys. That added to a 70, not a nasty day’s work.
“I type of went out with the mindset this week, regardless that it is onerous, do not give the course an excessive amount of respect,” Laird mentioned. “You continue to must tackle photographs when you could have the prospect. After I had a spot the place I might go on the flag, I used to be ensuring I stored doing it and hit a number of very nice photographs and managed to make some birdies.
“You are going to hit bogeys on this golf course,” he mentioned. “It is good when you possibly can throw in a bunch of birdies, too.”
Lastly heeled from a left knee damage, Koepka injured ligaments in his proper knee in March and has performed solely twice since then, the Masters and final week in Dallas.
He started with a poor 3-wood on No. 10 that did not clear the waste space. He took on an excessive amount of with a gentle lie within the sand and barely acquired it out, resulting in a double bogey. However he did not flinch and had few complaints about his begin.
“It is a main. I will present up. I am able to play,” he mentioned. “I adore it when it is tough. I feel that is why I achieve this effectively within the majors. I simply know mentally I can grind it out.”