Wed, 23 Sep 2020

Day, Todd lead PGA Championship; Tiger 3 back

Field Level Media
07 Aug 2020, 13:19 GMT+10

Brendon Todd weathered difficult afternoon conditions on Thursday to post a 5-under-par 65 and tie Australia's Jason Day for the lead after the first round of the PGA Championship in San Francisco.

They hold a slim one-shot lead over a group of nine players that includes two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka and fellow major champions Zach Johnson, England's Justin Rose and Germany's Martin Kaymer.

Another group of eight players at 3 under includes reigning U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, with 15-time major champion Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau among those another shot back after an opening-round 68.

No one else in the afternoon wave managed better than 3 under, leaving Todd's round as arguably the most impressive of the day. That included parring the eighth and ninth holes, his final two of the day and the two hardest holes at TPC Harding Park on Thursday.

"(The weather) really changed fast before the last two holes," said Todd, who was among the final players off the course and estimated the winds kicked up to 20 mph.

Todd is already a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this season as he has rocketed from outside the top 2,000 to begin 2019 to No. 48 in the official world golf rankings entering this week.

"It's really a story of perseverance," he said. "I'm just a golfer who's always had a lot of talent, and fortunately I was able to overcome my struggles and play the type of golf that I've always been capable of."

Day has been undergoing his own resurgence. The former No. 1 parted with long-time swing coach Colin Swatton last week and is coming off three straight top-10 finishes. That includes a T6 at last week's WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, where he shot four rounds in the 60s.

Day, whose lone major title came at the 2015 PGA Championship, played during the morning wave and posted a bogey-free round.

"There was definitely a lot of momentum coming in off the previous finishes that I've had," Day said. "The game feels like it's coming around. I'm pleased with it."

Lurking just a shot behind is Koepka, who is attempting to become just the third three-peat champion at a major in the past 100 years.

Koepka had admittedly not been playing well while dealing with pain in his left knee. But he tied for second place last week, and the four-time major winner has a reputation for showing up big in marquee events.

"I love the competition," he said. "I love it when it's extremely difficult. Every shot, there's a lot of consequences.

"When you play tough golf courses like this, you've got to really narrow your focus off the tee, put it in the fairway and just go one shot at a time. Just keep plugging away."

Woods, a four-time PGA champion, turned in his 68 after making a switch in putters this week. Starting on the back nine in a group with No. 1 Justin Thomas and No. 3 Rory McIlroy, Woods got to 3 under before a bogey on the par-3 eighth hole.

"It was positive," Woods said. "We were surprised at some of the pin positions, they were a little bit more on the difficult side. This golf course is all about hitting fairways."

Thomas and McIlroy, two other former PGA champions, did not fare as well.

McIlroy did rebound from a stretch of three consecutive bogies on his first nine to briefly get back under par. However, he struggled with his distance control on the greens and had to settle for an even-par 70.

"It was there for the taking today," McIlroy said. "I feel like I definitely could have been a few shots lower, but you know, I sort of grinded it out and with how I hit it on the back nine, even par actually wasn't too bad."

Thomas' struggles primarily came off the tee box. That included the newly-minted No. 1 player in the world losing a ball in a cypress tree off the seventh hole, leading to one of two double bogeys in a 1-over 73.

Thomas did close out his round with one of only three birdies on the ninth hole during the morning wave. He is coming off a win at the WGC and has Phil Mickelson's former caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay on his bag for the second consecutive week with Jimmy Johnson ill.

Second-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain scratched out a 70 during the afternoon to keep himself in contention, as did Bubba Watson and England's Tommy Fleetwood.

"It just seemed like a tough day all around," said Rahm, who carded three birdies and three bogeys. "I was aware of if you don't put it the fairway, it's going to be a long day, and that's what happened."

NOTES: The PGA Championship is serving as the first major of the year for the first time since 1971, and there are no spectators on the grounds due to the coronavirus pandemic. ... Koepka is aiming to be the first player to win the same major three consecutive times since Peter Thomson at The Open Championship from 1954-56. He is also seeking to become the first player since Woods in 2005-08 to win at least one major in four consecutive seasons. ... Woods is a 15-time major champion and 82-time winner on the PGA Tour, the latter tied with Sam Snead for the most all-time. He won a WGC event at Harding Park in 2005. ... Thomas regained the No. 1 world ranking for the first time since 2018 with his victory last week.

--Field Level Media

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