Fine Weather Light Winds Allow Low Scoring at Oak Hill for Opening Day of 105th PGA Championship
PITTSFORD, NY – After nearly a two-hour frost delay, light winds and mild temperatures allowed for low scores at the 105th PGA Championship being conducted at the East Course of Oak Hill Country Club. As we go to press 16 players were under par and a whopping total of 48 were at EVEN par or better. 2020 U.S. Open Champion Bryson DeChambeau currently leads after posting a 4-under 66. 2021 Masters Champion Scottie Scheffler and young Canadian star Corey Conners are one stroke behind at 3-under, while a group of four players stands at 2-under, including 2011 PGA Champion Keegan Bradley and Norwegian standout Viktor Hovland. Two popular favorites and names that were on many short-lists to win, Rory McIlroy and Collin Morikawa, carded 1-over 71s.
Starting on the back nine, DeChambeau, a defector to the rogue LIV Tour funded by Saudi strongman and warlord Mohammed bin Salman, birdied four of his last ten holes, including a clean-card 32 on the front. Overall, DeChambeau balanced six birdies against two bogeys.
By contrast, Scheffler’s 67 was bogey-free. Also starting on the back, he birdied the short 14th, (playing the easiest hole on the golf course currently), then came alive late birdieing the new par-3 fifth hole, (called “Little Poison”), and the quirky par-4 eighth, which dog-legs in an awkward position.
“Today was probably the easiest conditions we’ll see all week with the golf course, so getting around with no bogeys was really good. There’s not really many birdie opportunities out there. So, if you can limit the mistakes, good things will happen,” Scheffler observed post-round.
Scheffler, who has won twice already this season, then credited a crucial par save at the par-5 fourth hole as a catalyst for the closing stretch of his round.
“I got some good momentum after No. 4. I pulled my drive a little bit there, which is a miss….I went up against a tree and actually got the ball back into play somehow, which was a great shot. Hit a pretty good iron shot in there too, we got a wind switch,” Scheffler noted. “And I had a really good up and down to keep the round going. You would hate to bogey a par-5, especially when there’s only two of them around this place. That was good momentum.”
By contrast Corey Conners’s 67 was as wild as a Quentin Tarantino movie: six birdies against three bogeys. Indeed, the bogeys should irk him since they came at some of the shorter holes at Oak Hill. After bogeying the tricky second, he birdied the fifth, the long and difficult sixth, and the shortish eighth to turn in 33. He bogeyed 10, but then rattled off three more birdies at 12, 14, and 15, a stretch most players hope to take advantage of before turning home for the final run back to the clubhouse.
Of the early wave, perhaps Viktor Hovland had the strangest round. He only hit six fairways, but he hit 14 greens. Uncanny, seeing as how the rough runs from thick 3-1/2 inch spinach patches to 6-1/2 inch, club-grabbing green Velcro.
“I knew even with perfect weather like this, it was still going to be hard. You don’t have to be very far off to make a bogey and they can kind of come in a row if you’re not too careful. It’s one of the hardest tests that I’ve played in a while,” he stated. “[If] you play really well and hit fairways and greens, you can make some putts, you can shoot a few under par. But if you’re a little bit off, the rough is just so penal.”
Well okay, well then whjat’s the secret to hitting greens out of it to the tune of turning 6/14 into 14/18? Something we talked about consistently pre-championship: patience and discipline.
“I stayed really patient today. I didn’t have a very good start. I was 2-over through three, and luckily I was able to make three birdies in a row right after that. I just really tried to do a good job of hitting middle of the greens, just giving myself a lot of putts.”
Meanwhile, newly-minted Masters champion Jon Rahm of Spain struggled mightily, posting a disappointing 76, tied for 132nd, ten shots back. Things looked promising when, starting on the back, he opened with a textbook birdie on the 10th, but then bogeys in six holes between 16 (his seventh hole of the day) and the par-3 third dropped him to 4-over. He then bogeyed six and double bogeyed seven before birdieing the eighth to finish 6-over for the day. A dismal line score of 4-for-14 fairways hit and 7-of-18 greens in regulation won’t be bring any hardware home and could lead to an early exit tomorrow in the form of a missed cut.
“The main thing on this course is hitting the fairway. If you put the ball in the fairway you can actually give yourself a lot of good chances… and that is what I did not do,” Rahm admitted candidly. “I Couldn’t find the fairway, and the fairways that I missed cost me bogeys.”
Other former major champions and popular stars that have finished their rounds include reigning Open Championship winner Cameron Smith and a trio of former PGA champions at 2-over Justin Thomas (2017 and 2022), Padraig Harrington (2008), and Brooks Koepka (2018 and 2019). Gary Woodland, Jimmy Walker, (the 2016 PGA Champion), and Jordan Speith, seeking the final leg of the career Grand Slam are at 3-over, while Zach Johnson and Webb Simpson are at 4-over. Reigning U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick of England is at 6-over.
“That was the worst I’ve hit it in a long time,” groused a surly unobliging Koepka after the round, looking like he’d rather handle a scorpion than talk to a journalist. “Scrambled really well, missed a couple putts early, but scrambled really well late. Yeah, that was the worst I’ve hit it in a really long time…. Probably could have shot even. But like I said, I just didn’t have it.”