Corey Conners opened with a 5-under 67 and will take a two-shot lead into Friday’s second round of the 2021 PGA Championship.
Conners was nearly perfect on the day mixing one bogey with six birdies, including a score on each of the four par-5 holes. His final two birdies were back-to-back on Nos. 15 and 16 which allowed him to pull away from the 3-under pack to secure the marquee position.
“I was fortunate to have a good day,” said Conners. “Made it as least stressful as possible on myself.
“I hit a lot of really good shots and holed some nice putts early in the round, and that really helped boost the confidence.
“You know, played with a lot of freedom.”
A group of six players were tied for second on 3 under, including two-time PGA winner Brooks Koepka, who overcame a double bogey start to finish with a 69.
“It wasn’t ideal, the start, and knowing you’ve got that coming out,” said Koepka.
“It was nice to get it back to even before I turned back into the wind.
“At the same time, you can’t do that stuff if you want to win. You’ve just got to be more focused.
“I don’t know if that’s just the decision I made on 10th. I don’t know if that’s a lack of not playing or what.
“I don’t know, it was just stupid. I was able to recover, I guess.”
Defending champion Collin Morikawa was among a group of eight more players at 2-under 70.
“Yeah, I’d say overall a really solid day,” said Morikawa. “Didn’t really make too many mistakes, and the mistakes I did, they’re really easily fixable.
“Overall, you’ve just got to be ready to hit good shots out here. It’s going to test you, even downwind when you’ve got wedge. I hit wedge into 9 today and made bogey. You’ve got to be ready holes 1 through 18, and you’re going to have to do that for three more rounds.”
Also in that group at 70 was Phil Mickelson, who overcame a 3-over par start to finish two in the red.
“I mean, I’m very pleased to be under par, especially after a rough start, I was 3-over through six,” said Mickelson.
“I bogeyed 4, 5 and 6 and was able to kind of steady the round and play the downwind as we turned downwind in a few under partaking advantage of the par 5s, 7 and 11, and sneaking a birdie in on 10 and then the last five holes which are really tough I played them in 2-under.
“That was really where I made up a lot of ground on the field because those are tough holes back into the wind, and I would have been happy playing them in even and getting in at even par not doing too much damage.
“But I made a couple of good shots on 15 and 16 to make birdies.”
Sixteen more players tied for 16th at 1 under including headliners such as Rickie Fowler, Paul Casey, Joaquin Niemann, Padraig Harrington, Will Zalatoris, and Louis Oosthuizen.
Jon Rahm, Justin Rose and Bryson DeChambeau were among nine players tied at even-par 72.
Jordan Spieth bogeyed the 18th hole to join a 21-player logjam on 1-over par 73. Xander Schauffele, Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Cantlay, Lee Westwood, and Henrik Stenson were some of the others at 73.
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson was among another logjam at 2 over par, one clear of pre-tournament favorites Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, who both struggled to 3-over par 75s.
Citing a back injury, Sam Burns withdrew after nine holes. He was 5-over par.
2021 PGA Championship
Top-10 Leaders: Round One
Pos-Player-To Par (Score)
1. Corey Conners -5 (67)
2. Brooks Koepka -3 (69)
2. Viktor Hovland -3 (69)
2. Keegan Bradley -3 (69)
2. Aaron Wise -3 (69)
2. Sam Horsfield -3 (69)
2. Cameron Davis -3 (69)
8. Phil Mickelson -2 (70)
8. Collin Morikawa -2 (70)
8. Martin Laird -2 (70)
8. Cameron Tringale -2 (70)
8. Branden Grace -2 (70)
8. Gary Woodland -2 (70)
8. Kevin Streelman -2 (70)
8. Sungjae Im -4 (70)