By JIM LITKE AP, Sports activities Author
Unhealthy backs, creaky knees, hardly any applause and one man who even snapped his driver in two — there was nonetheless a lot to complain about as golf’s first main of the COVID-19 period lastly received underway. However a minimum of the weatherman received off scot-free.
Jason Day and Brendon Todd took benefit of a really un-San Francisco-like day to shoot opening spherical 65s and share the PGA Championship lead at TPC Harding Park, the place a light breeze and sunshine changed the chilly, dense marine layer that hung over the course throughout follow rounds earlier within the week. A raft of gamers battling assorted illnesses appreciated the relative heat, too, maybe none greater than 44-year-old Tiger Woods.
Day made his approach round within the morning with out a bogey, whereas Todd lastly steadied an up-and-down afternoon spherical with pars on the final two holes. Regardless of their completely different routes, each reached the clubhouse with their noses in entrance of a giant trailing pack only one shot behind.
With three top-10 finishes underneath his belt already this season, the Aussie had cause to be optimistic — “I really feel like the sport is slowly coming round,” Day stated afterward — but additionally good cause to maintain an eye fixed out over his shoulder. Among the many 9 names clustered at 66 heading into Friday’s second spherical had been: Brooks Koepka, a big-game performer searching for to develop into the primary golfer in 64 years to win the identical main thrice in a row; Xander Schauffle, a rising star on the sport’s greatest levels; and some former, however nonetheless formidable main winners — Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer and Zach Johnson.
”I’m excited for the following three days,” stated Koepka, who’s been hobbling by a knee damage for over a 12 months. “I believe I can positively play rather a lot higher. Simply have to tidy a number of issues up, and we’ll be there come Sunday on the again 9.”
Woods’ 2-under 68 on Thursday marked the primary time for the reason that 2014 British Open that he kicked off a spherical at a serious within the 60s. Each the forecast and the gangly tough at Harding had been certain to check Woods’ surgically repaired again, however solely of these challenges materialized and he proved equal to the duty. He missed 5 consecutive fairways throughout one stretch, however improvised after which putted nicely sufficient to run off three birdies in 4 holes and salvage what might simply have been a 2- or 3-over-par spherical.
Woods gave a number of the credit score to an extended putter he’s been leaning on these days, put into his bag as a result of it allowed him to get in additional follow on the greens. It paid dividends early, with a 10-foot birdie on his opening gap, and a 20-footer to save lots of par simply earlier than he started his again 9.
“I assumed something at this time within the crimson was going to be good,” Woods stated.
Talking of leaning, Bryson DeChambeau snapped the pinnacle off his driver on the seventh tee, however the break wasn’t obvious till he put some weight on the membership reaching right down to retrieve his tee. DeChambeau used the time at residence throughout the pandemic to pack one other 20 kilos of bulk onto his 6-foot-1, now 240-pound body and crank his swing pace into the neighborhood of 200 mph. It confirmed early, as he despatched 4 of his first six drives rocketing over 325 yards.
“I assume it’s all these swings I put into it,” he chuckled heading down the seventh fairway nonetheless carrying each items in his fingers.
Thankfully, a neighborhood rule in impact on the PGA Championship allowed DeChambeau to switch the membership shaft with out penalty, and after placing the newly configured driver again into play off No. 9, he promptly went birdie-birdie and completed with a 68.
In fact, hitting the motive force too exhausting wasn’t an issue for everybody. Jeff Hart, a membership skilled from San Diego who performed briefly on the PGA Tour, spent his day trailing his professional taking part in companions Brian Harman and C.T. Pan — neither referred to as a protracted hitter — by some 50 yards off lots of the tees.
“It’s a troublesome take a look at for a 60-year-old man,” he stated after capturing 77. “It’s like pitching within the main leagues with a 60-mile-an-hour fastball.”
Whereas the event isn’t missing big-league names, most gamers concede they’re nonetheless adjusting to the shortage of the galleries. Rory McIlroy listened to the announcer introduce his taking part in companion Thursday as “the ’99, 2000, 2006, 2007 PGA champion — Tiger Woods,” and braced himself for the acquainted roar of the group. This time, there was silence.
“That,” McIlroy famous, “is certainly completely different.”
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