We’re off and running in the second men’s major championship of the year! The opening round of the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island separated the great ball-strikers from the merely good ones. Corey Conners leads the way after a near-flawless 67 at the Ocean Course. PGA Championship Leaderboard
As you were saying – The biggest talking points prior to the PGA Championship were about the golf course and the wind. Pete Dye’s Ocean Course is a demanding test, and practice rounds had some players concerned about how difficult the tournament would be. Thursday’s scoring average was around 74.7, but that doesn’t tell the full story. The holes going into the wind (Nos. 1-4 and 14-18) played nearly 400 shots over par, while the downwind holes played under par. Players who started on the back nine had an especially tough go of it, as they faced nine straight into-the-wind holes from No. 14 to No. 4. All in all, it was a grind out there for most of the field. The next couple of days figure to be more of the same.
Flushers – On a golf course this challenging tee to green, we’re not surprised to see a leaderboard is jammed with elite ball-strikers. Corey Conners (67), Keegan Bradley (69), Viktor Hovland (69), Collin Morikawa (70), Will Zalatoris (71), Paul Casey (71), and Tyrrell Hatton (71) are all known as flushers, and they’re all in position to make a run. In total, 11 of the top 30 players in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green are in the top 20. There is no faking it around Kiawah Island. Assuming the wind continues this weekend, expect the Ocean Course to continue separating the wheat from the chaff.
Bruce Cupcake – Still struggling with a knee injury, Brooks Koepka had a strong outing on Thursday. The two-time PGA champion opened his day with a double bogey yet managed to shoot 69. Unlike the other leaders, Koepka hit the ball rather poorly off the tee, finding just five fairways in his first round. He’ll need to tighten things up if he wants to collect his third Wanamaker trophy. Also in need of tightening? Brooksy’s hat game.
So you had a bad day – A few top players had rough starts on Thursday. Justin Thomas (75), Dustin Johnson (76), and trendy pick Daniel Berger (79) all fell a bit flat in the first round. And stop us if you’ve heard this before, but Rory McIlroy (75) was slow out of the gates at a major championship. The winner of the last Kiawah PGA as well as the Wells Fargo Championship two weeks ago finds himself eight shots off the pace. Could he come ro(a)ring back to claim his first major title since 2014? Or is he headed for yet another frustrating backdoor top 10?
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Sei Young Kim, Megan Khang, Stacy Lewis, and Tiffany Joh are among the leaders at the Pure Silk Championship on the LPGA Tour. Leaderboard
Cameron Young jumped out to a two-shot lead with a Thursday 64 at the AdventHealth Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour. Kevin Chappell (66), Greyson Sigg (67), and Jamie Lovemark (67) are chasing. Leaderboard
The Saudis and their upstart Super Golf League have made their presence known on Kiawah Island, and they’re continuing their campaign to recruit the PGA Tour’s biggest stars. But it doesn’t seem to be going very well. Daniel Rapaport has the details and Eamon Lynch has the acerbic one-liners.
Sam Burns, who went 1-2 in his last two PGA Tour starts, withdrew from the PGA Championship after nine holes, citing a re-aggravated back injury. He shot a 5-over 41 on his opening nine.
John Catlin (75) became the first player since Guan Tianlang in 2013 to receive a slow-play penalty at a major. On the 3rd hole at the Ocean Course, Catlin’s 12th, he recorded his second bad time of the round, turning his par into a bogey.
Will Zalatoris (71) is always looking for ways to improve his putting. Dispensing with the need to putt is his boldest idea yet.
Sebastian Muñoz’s tee shot on 18 was trash.
Viktor Hovland wants to know how far it is to “cover the crap.” Don’t we all, Vik.