If there’s one thing we learned after watching round one at the PGA Championship Thursday, it’s that Whistling Straits is really, really hard when the wind blows.
The morning wave got off easy. Dustin Johnson shot a six-under 66, but to be fair. He did it in conditions Matt Kuchar (who shot a 68) called “probably as easy as we have seen this place play.” With 25 mph winds gusting off the shores of Lake Michigan, afternoon starters struggled to keep putts – and shots – online. Of the 14 rounds in the 60s Thursday, only two came in the afternoon.
Five Things We Learned During the First Round
By Brendan Mohler
Thursday’s opening round of the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits did not present too many extraordinary occurrences. Instead, it reinforced several things we already knew.
Nonetheless, we learned a little something here and there along the shores of Lake Michigan during the first round. Here’s what we found out:
1. Dustin Johnson REALLY loves Thursdays at majors
Johnson’s scoring average in the first round at the majors this year is 66.5 and he’s either held or shared the lead after 18 holes in each of the last three. His round included five birdies, an eagle and a bogey, and he hit 10/14 fairways and 83 percent of greens in regulation. As he said during a press conference Wednesday, Johnson indeed is “just chillin’.”
2. It’s good to have Rory McIlroy back
Not that we expected anything different, but McIlroy showed us something special in his first round back since an ankle injury sidelined him in early July. Rory’s Thursday 71 came on a day when he didn’t quite have his best stuff, but it was a very respectable round. He’s right where he wants to be – and let’s not forget, he did this.
3. Tiger Woods is still searching
While his ball striking game looked better than it has for most of the season, Woods putted terribly and further proved that he just can’t put it all together on the same day, let alone an entire tournament. A first-round 75 puts Woods in serious danger of missing his 3rd cut in-a-row at a major, something he’s never done. Claude Harmon III said Thursday that Tiger, “putted about as badly as he can,” so hopefully for TW, there’s nowhere to go but up.
4. Even Jordan Spieth struggles with the putter
Often referred to as the best putter in the game, Spieth’s performance on the greens Thursday was surprisingly lackluster. Yes, a round of 71 when the best part of your game falters is great stuff. But Spieth finished Thursday with 28 putts, including an ugly three putt on the par-5 11th, a hole he never should have bogeyed. For a guy who leads the tour in putts per round, one-putt percentage and putting average, a round like Spieth’s today is rare.
5. David Lingmerth learned from St. Andrews
The Swede who won the Memorial earlier this season sits one stroke behind Johnson after 18 holes. At the British Open Lingmerth shot 29 on his opening nine holes but stumbled to a first-round 69 after closing with 40. Maybe it was the nerves that got to him, but he didn’t break 70 again and wound up finishing T74. Lingmerth opened strong again Thursday, shooting 31 on the front, and closed solidly with a 36.