ST. LOUIS, MO – Gary Woodland fired a 6-under 64 on Thursday and leads the PGA Championship after round one at Bellerive Country Club.
Woodland opened his round with a bogey, but birdied seven of his last 11 holes en route to the day’s low round of 64. Afterwards, the 34-year old Kansan credited a recent putting tip for his day-one performance.
“I made a big par putt there on 5, and it was the first time I’ve really seen a putt go in, in a while, which was nice. I made a lot of changes the last couple of weeks I seek the help of Phil Kenyon on Saturday of the Open Championship,” said Woodland, who finished with 23 putts (T5) on Thursday.
“I was hitting it so good and just got nothing out of it. He showed me some things that he saw that I was doing wrong in my stroke and it really took the last week and a half to, a lot of time on the putting green, and I’ve started to feel pretty comfortable this week and it was nice to see results today.”
Rickie Fowler offset one bogey with six birdies, including two in his final three holes to sign for a 5-under 65.
“I’m definitely happy about the start. Felt like I kept it very stress free, hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens,” said Fowler, who hit 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens.
“Just played within myself. Didn’t try to do anything special or get anything extra up there today. I’m definitely happy with the start, and we’ll see if we can keep that rolling.
“Because I know the last — last few events we haven’t exactly put together four consecutive rounds like we need to and want to. This is a different week.”
The 29-year Californian was alone in second, one shot clear of recent Scottish Open winner Brandon Stone and two-time major winner Zach Johnson, who posted matching 66s.
Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, and Jason Day headline a group of 11 players at 3-under 67. The world No.1 Johnson appeared headed for a low round after reeling off six birdies in an eight-hole stretch but lost two shots over his final five holes to fall back to the pack. Kevin Kisner and Ian Poulter were a couple of the other names in the T5 logjam.
Defending champion Justin Thomas got off to a nice start with three birdies in his first six holes but came up empty the rest of the way, while dropping a couple of shots, to finish 1-under par 69.
“I played well on the front nine. Had some good holes on the back nine too. Had a couple of putts that didn’t quite go in. Had a nasty lip on the 16th hole,” said Thomas.
“Definitely a lot more positives to take the negatives, and I’m in a good position for Thursday.”
Tiger Woods struggled out of the gate, carding bogey-double bogey on Nos.10 and 11 (his 1 and 2), but the four-time PGA winner recovered nicely, going 3 under in his final 16 holes to get back to level par.
“Just hung in there. I was trying to grind away at it, pick away at it, and trying to get to maybe 1 over par at the turn and ended up being 2 where it was,” said Thomas.
“Just trying to chip away at it. A par 5 and a couple short par 4s on the front nine. Just keep hanging in there. I was hitting the ball all right. If I could somehow get myself in the right sections, I could hole a few putts.
“I was able to grind out a score today.”
Also at even par was Rory McIlroy, who played alongside Woods and Thomas. The two-time PGA winner finished with two birdies against two bogeys.
Jordan Spieth posted a first-day 71 and finds himself seven shots off the pace in his bid for the career grand slam.
2018 PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
TOP 10: FIRST ROUND
1. Gary Woodland -6
2. Rickie Fowler -5
3. Zach Johnson -4
3. Brandon Stone -4
5. Dustin Johnson -3
5. Justin Rose -3
5. Austin Cook -3
5. Ian Poulter -3
5. Pat Perez -3
5. Jason Day -3
5. Brian Gay -3
5. Stewart Cink -3
5. Ollie Schniederjans -3
5. Stewart Cink -3
5. Kevin Kisner -3
5. Thomas Pieters -3
“I just have been playing very well, I had a great week of preparation, I’m excited to be here. And so maybe trying to get off to a really good start early, knowing 1 and 2 if you get it in the fairway are birdie holes. And I just probably pressed a little bit too much. But I’ll learn from that. It’s not the first time I’ve done that. But I just took a step back on 3 and realized I’ve been hitting it so good, just take a second, take a deep breath and let’s go. And we did that and hit the ball beautifully after the first two holes.”
– Gary Woodland