Here’s a look at some early first round highlights from Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and others at the PGA Championship.
The 100th PGA Championship got underway on Thursday morning from Bellerive Country Club in suburban St. Louis and there was plenty of star power out on the course early in the day.
In easily the biggest group of the morning (let’s face it, this is the biggest group overall on Thursday and Friday), defending champion Justin Thomas teed off at 8:23 a.m. local time alongside four-time champion Tiger Woods and two-time winner Rory McIlroy with a large gallery following along. Twenty-two minutes earlier, also starting on the 10th tee, another trio of former PGA Championship winners got their tournament going as Phil Mickelson, Jason Day and Keegan Bradley had a big crowd with them as well.
Let’s take a look at some of the early highlights from Round 1 of the PGA Championship from Bellerive.
Phil Mickelson left himself a lengthy effort for par at the 508-yard, par-4 10th hole but was able to hole the putt to avoid dropping a shot early and then got into red numbers with an even longer putt at the 11th.
Mickelson bogeyed the 12th to drop back to even-par but bounced back with a great approach at the 410-yard, par-4 14th, leaving a short birdie putt to get back to one-under.
Unfortunately for Phil, he double-bogeyed the 15th and dropped another at the 18th for a 37, two-over for the championship and five back of the lead at the time. As for Keegan Bradley and Jason Day, each had eight pars and one birdie on their respective nines and went out in one-under.
After a bogey at the 10th to start his round, Rory McIlroy got the birdie train rolling in this featured group following a great approach into this tough pin placement at the 11th. Rory would also birdie the 13th to get to red figures but bogeyed the 18th to go out with an even-par 35.
Not to be outdone early on, Justin Thomas also birdied the 11th and went back-to-back with another at the 452-yard, par-4 12th to get to two-under.
As for Tiger Woods, his day got off to a disastrous start. Tiger needed to fix his accuracy issues off the tee and that was a big problem early on. He missed the fairway to the right at the 10th and had to pitch out, ultimately making bogey, and then missed left at the 11th. He still had a short shot in but it came out very soft and he came up short into the water and made double, putting him at three-over after two holes. Certainly not the start he was looking for. He finally found the fairway at the 12th and made the most of that position, stuffing his approach right next to the flag and making his first birdie of this 100th PGA Championship to get back to two-over.
After pars at 13 and 14, Tiger went way left with his drive at the 15th and got a little aggressive with his second shot, hooking the ball much more than he would have liked and once again finding the wooded area. However, he managed to hit a fantastic third and was able to save par to remain at two-over.
Justin Thomas nabbed his third birdie of the day at the 495-yard, par-4 15th to tie for the lead at three-under and looked in great control of his game.
Woods dropped another shot with a bogey at the par-3 16th but was able to get it back on the 18th with his second birdie of the day to shoot 37 on his first nine, five back of Thomas and a score that looked like it could be a lot worse given his start. He then got another back with a birdie at the first.
With Phil Mickelson struggling to a three-over round of 73 and Keegan Bradley staying steady at one-under-par with par after par after par after par, Jason Day made a move with birdies at the seventh and eighth and finished with a three-under 67.
There weren’t a ton of highlights in the Woods, McIlroy and Thomas group but Tiger did sneak in a birdie at the par-5 eighth to get back to even-par for the week, which was quite a comeback, and that’s where he stayed with a par at the ninth. That driver might end up staying in the bag tomorrow.
Justin Thomas had a little hiccup with a bogey at the fourth and then got an unlucky break in the fairway bunker at the ninth, which caused him to drop another shot. The defending champion is still in good position at one-under.
As for Rory McIlroy, he was a par-making machine on his second nine, making nine in a row coming in to shoot an even-par 70.
With so much attention on the Woods and Mickelson groups during the early PGA Championship streaming coverage, Rickie Fowler was at Bellerive putting in work. Also starting on the back nine, the 29-year-old still searching for that elusive major championship win had two birdies against one bogey and his first nine and then caught fire at the turn, making birdies on the first, third, seventh and eighth holes to come in with a 31 to get to five-under for the championship to take a two-stroke lead on a large group of players at three-under that includes Day, Austin Cook, Ian Poulter, Stewart Cink and Pat Perez.
With all of the star power already in, there’s still so much more to come this afternoon as world number one Dustin Johnson, career Grand Slam hopeful Jordan Spieth, Masters champion Patrick Reed, back-to-back U.S. Open winner Brooks Koepka and the winner of The Open Championship and arguably the hottest golfer in the world, Francesco Molinari, are all still to come.
It’s the final major of the year and things are just getting started at the 100th PGA Championship.