Johns Creek, GA – Paul Casey snapped a long winless stretch in June, and it looked like that would propel him back into contention in the majors.
However, his win at the Irish Open did not get him into the British Open, but he did qualify for the PGA Championship.
That win at the Irish Open was his first in 29 months. The only thing longer is his current drought at the majors. He has never won a major championship title, and he hasn't had a top-10 finish in a major since sharing third at the 2010 British Open.
Casey took a big step towards ending that dry spell on Thursday. He carded a 3-under 67 for his best score in a PGA Championship. Three times previously, Casey had shot 69 at the PGA, the last time coming in the final round in 2010.
The Englishman has only two top-20 finishes at the PGA Championship, in 2008 and 2010. The PGA is the only major which Casey does not own a top-10.
"Without sounding sort of cocky, I guess I feel like I enjoy it out here. I belong out here. I love it out here," admitted Casey, who did not play three of the last seven majors, and missed the cut in another three of those seven.
"Having missed so many, it feels like a lot, for a year and a half, I'm very appreciative being back on the big stage. I felt very conscious of that at the U.S. Open when I qualified at Walton Heath. Couldn't have been any more excited than I was. It's a classic tale of you don't realize how much you miss something until it's gone."
With those feelings, you get the sense that Casey is fighting not only for his position in this tournament, but his spot in the top 20 in the world rankings and a spot on the European Ryder Cup team, which he last played on in 2008.
The 67 was just one round, but it was clearly a huge step for Casey.
MCILROY'S ROUND COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER
Defending champion Rory McIlroy has struggled most of the year with new equipment and plenty of off the course distractions.
He seemed to right the ship a little on Thursday as he opened with a 1-under 69. He shared 22nd after the opening round at Oak Hill.
The 69 may not seem like much, but it was just his third under-par score in the opening round of the 15 worldwide events this year. It was also the first time he broke par in the first round of a major this season.
"Today was definitely positive. I felt like I played really, really well. I didn't play so well coming in, but I thought for the first holes it was really good," McIlroy stated.
The Ulsterman flew out of the gates with three birdies in the first four holes. That run was ended by a bogey on the fifth. McIlroy birdied the ninth and 12th, but had bogeys in between at 10 and 11.
McIlroy parred four in a row before stumbling to a bogey on the 17th. He parred the last to finish in red figures.
"I played well. I got off to a fast start, obviously. I was 3-under through nine holes. I felt like I played really, really well on the front nine. Made a couple of bogeys on the back nine, on 10 and 11, sort of halted the momentum," McIlroy stated. "And then the horn blew for the weather, so having to come in for a little bit. It was nice to be able to make my birdie putt on 12 as soon as we got back out there. Had a chance on 13, didn't quite make it. But overall it was good."
* Martin Kaymer, who hasn't had a top-10 finish in a major since his win at the 2010 PGA Championship, holed out for eagle from the fairway on the par-5 13th.
* Bo Van Pelt withdrew after the first round due to a hip injury.
* Jim Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, hasn't had a top-10 finish at the PGA Championship since finishing ninth in 2002.
* There was a 70-minute weather delay on Thursday due to lightening in the area.
* Five club professionals -- Bob Sowards, Ryan Polzin, Jeff Sorenson, JC Anderson and Danny Balin -- opened with rounds of 3-over 73.
* The par-4 17th was the hardest hole in the opening round as it played to an average of 4.38 strokes.
* The par-5 fourth was the easiest hole on day one as played averaged 4.67 strokes.