With the opening round of the 2020 PGA Championship – the season’s first major – in the books, here are the three big stories the golf world is buzzing about, following day one at TPC Harding Park.
1. Jason Day Shares Lead
Jason Day, the former world number one, was all the buzz leading up to the first balls going live. As the story goes: After a missed cut in Detroit – his third in four starts since the COVID reboot, the Aussie dumped his swing coach, and proceeded to reel off three-straight top 10 finishes.
“Yeah, so there was definitely a lot of momentum coming in off the previous finishes that I’ve had, three top 10s, which has been nice,” said Day, who held the No. 1 ranking for over a full calendar year.
“The game feels like it’s coming around. I’m pleased with it. I’m not like excited — I shouldn’t say I’m not excited. I am excited to come out and play every day, but I know that I can improve, and mainly my putting can improve a little bit more.
“I feel like I’ve been working very hard in the off-weeks and especially when I come to a tournament to be able to get my putting back to where it is because it’s always been a strength of mine. I feel like the game is slowly coming around, the confidence is coming around because I’m starting to see the results, which has been good.”
Starting his first day at Harding Park on the 10th hole, Day quickly got in the red with a birdie on the 562-yard par-5. He added a second gain on the par-3 17th to turn in 2-under 33. Birdies on Nos. 1 and 4 moved the Aussie to 4-under par, and into a share of the lead. He closed with a terrific birdie on the par-4 9th to secure the early marquee position on 5-under par.
“I feel like the momentum that I’ve had over the last three starts has kind of seeped into this week,” said Day. “I’m excited about — the funny thing is that every day I’m excited to go back to the golf course and play, whereas before I was struggling to get up and going, ‘Oh, do I want to kind of put myself through this again?’ To be honest, I’m excited to get out and play every week now.”
Brendon Todd, the 54-hole leader at last week’s Memphis event, continues to impress. The 35-year University of Georgia product opened with a 65 to match Day atop the day-one leaderboard.
2. Woods Impresses With New Putter
Tiger Woods shot a first-round 68 – his lowest opening-round score in a major since 2012, and afterwards he cited a new (longer version) Scotty Cameron Newport putter he put into play this week.
“Most of the guys on the Champions Tour have gone to longer putters as they have gotten older, because it’s easier to bend over, or not bend over,” said Woods who was 25th in strokes gained: putting.
“And so this putter is just a little bit longer and I’ve been able to spend a little bit more time putting (and practicing). It’s also very similar to my sand wedge. I putt with my sand wedge all the time at home. I like the feel in my right hand. I like blading putts and hitting the ball in the equator.
“Not unusual for me to be messing around with something a bit longer. Felt like I was able to spend the time putting again and log in (the) time, and felt like I was able to get ready for this event.”
Playing in the day’s top featured group, alongside world No. 1 Justin Thomas (+1) and No. 3 Rory McIlroy (E), Woods finished his day with three bogeys offset by five birdies, highlighted by three birdies in a four-hole stretch on Nos. 4, 5, and 7.
3. Koepka in the Hunt (Again!)
With a bogey on the second hole of the day, Brooks Koepka’s attempt at a PGA Championship three-peat didn’t get off to the start he’d envisioned. But the four-time major champion settled down with a par on the next hole, and then got cooking with four birdies over the next six holes to turn in 3-under 32.
A dropped shot on the first hole of his inward nine was recovered (and then some) quickly on a three-hole stretch of birdie-par-birdie to reach 4-under par, and join a nine-player logjam tied for third.
“I mean, it’s only 18 holes right now,” said Koepka, who has posted consecutive sub 70 rounds in each of the last four opening rounds of the PGA Championship.
“I feel good. I feel confident. I’m excited for the next three days. I think I can definitely play a lot better, and just need to tidy a few things up, and we’ll be there come Sunday on the back nine.”
Top 10 Leaders
1. Brendon Todd -5
1. Jason Day -5
3. Scottie Scheffler -4
3. Martin Kaymer -4
3. Xander Shchauffele -4
3. Bud Cauley -4
3. Zach Johnson -4
3. Brooks Koepka -4
3. Justin Rose -4
3. Brendan Steele -4
3. Mike Lorenzo-Vera -4