Conditions were benign on Thursday, and the best players in the world took full advantage. More than 80 players finished the opening round at even par or better, headlined by Xander Schauffele’s nine-under, course-record round of 62. (More on him below.) The morning rounds, especially, saw plenty of scoring, with the soft setup yielding plenty of birdie opportunities for a fairly stacked series of tee times.

A BIG group trails Xander atop the board, including names like Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau, Sahith Theegala, Bob MacIntyre, and the three Toms (Kim, Hoge, and Detry.) Brooks Koepka and Scottie Scheffler (-4) are also very much in position. Rain is in the Friday (and Saturday) forecast, which could mean delays but will definitely mean the course doesn’t firm up. Hopefully the rest of the week doesn’t face too much interruption. Thursday was a fun day of golf viewing. Fans deserve more of those.

Notable Names

Rory McIlroy is one of the best drivers in the world, yet ironically that was the only skill that “held him back” during his Thursday 66. If he tightens up the facet of his game he’s best at, he is absolutely going to be in contention come the weekend.

If we’ve learned anything about Brooks Koepka over the years, it’s that you never count him out. The defending PGA champion played his final three holes in three-under par to shoot 67 and put out the Brooks signal. He’s coming.

Tiger continued to show signs of rust on Thursday, but fought for a 72. He’ll need a better round tomorrow to make the cut.

As expected, Bryson DeChambeau bludgeoned Valhalla off the tee. He struggled with the putter but still shot 68.

Jon Rahm was about ready to walk into one of the waterfalls after his opening stretch but he salvaged a Thursday 70. He also had a tremendous club throw.

Max Homa (68), Cameron Smith (68), Jordan Spieth (69), and Justin Thomas (69) also broke 70 during the first round.

Other Thursday Notes

Scottie Scheffler holed out for eagle on 1, because of course he did. Many people took that as a sign the tournament was over. They might have been right. 

Michael Block pulled the tournament’s opening shot left of the first fairway. He then went bogey-quad, immediately exiting the broadcast.

Speaking of the broadcast, Thursday morning’s ESPN+ stream was *awesome*. Really, truly amazing. There were so few commercials, numerous camera angles, and nonstop golf shots. It was an absolute joy to watch, especially with so many big names on the course at that time. Tune in tomorrow morning if you have the chance.

The official PGA Championship app had some glitches on Thursday morning, crediting players with a LOT of eagles. The broadcast graphics had a few scoring issues too; at one point Max Homa holed a bunker shot for birdie to get to -2, only for the bottom-right leaderboard graphic to show him at E. They’ll presumably iron out the tech issues in short order, but it DOES make us pine for the reliability and functionality of the Masters app

Thursday’s Sun Day Red shirt had some difficulty keeping up with Tiger’s moisture-wicking needs.

A full shot striking the flagstick in the air is pleasing to multiple senses. Aurally it’s golf’s version of a field goal hitting an upright; obviously it’s more of a CLACK than a DOINK, but it’s still a unique and delightful sound. Visually, seeing the ball hit the stick and spray wildly away or drop straight down in the cup is always a shock; we expect golf balls to hit the green and behave certain ways, and the element of chaos a collision with the pin introduces is welcome. Rory delivered all of that today, as he sent the flagstick to shimmying like a parking lot tube man en route to making birdie on No. 1. 

Cam Smith ventured into one of Valhalla’s many water features to play a half-submerged ball. He went on to make par. We might see more water shots before the tournament is done. (Let’s hope we do.)

Bryson DeChambeau joined the parade of big names holing out from the fairway for eagle.

Shot of the Day

Birdies were flying left and right, but this chip in from Justin Thomas was all world. Below the surface of the par-4 16th, JT flew his pitch onto the green, put a little zip on it, and trickled it into the hole. He went on to shoot 69 and is one round from being in contention heading into the weekend.


Related Articles From Thursday: 

Time for Xander Schauffele to End the Narrative

Dustin Johnson’s Disappearing Act


This piece originally appeared in the Fried Egg Golf newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. For more coverage of the PGA Championship, visit our PGA hub here.