Kiawah Island, SC – Carl Pettersson posted a 6-under 66 on Thursday to take the first-round lead of the PGA Championship at a relatively defenseless Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.
Wind is the big key at the Ocean Course and there was little to speak of on Thursday. It blew a little harder for the afternoon wave, but 44 players broke par in round one.
Rory McIlroy, the 2011 U.S. Open champion, posted a 5-under 67 and is tied for second with long-hitting Gary Woodland, Alex Noren and Gonzalo Fernandez- Castano.
"It's a great way to start the tournament," said McIlroy. "You know, hitting balls on the range this morning, there was completely no wind. It was flat calm and I really thought that I had to take advantage of the conditions."
Defending champion Keegan Bradley, who won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last week, 1991 PGA winner John Daly, Graeme McDowell, who played in the final pairing on Sunday in the last two majors and Adam Scott headline a group at 4- under 68.
This is Scott's first chance at redemption since he bogeyed the final four holes on Sunday at The Open Championship to hand the Claret Jug to Ernie Els.
Tiger Woods putted beautifully on Thursday, but it only translated into a 3- under 69.
"I played well today and anything in the 60s is going to be a good start in a major championship, and I'm right there," said Woods, a 4-time PGA Champion.
Not every star in the game took advantage of Thursday's benign conditions.
Els had an even-par 72, while Phil Mickelson, who hit it all over the lot on Thursday, and Masters champion Bubba Watson, both shot 73s.
World No. 1 Luke Donald double-bogeyed the 17th and posted a 2-over 74.
Lee Westwood struggled to a 3-over 75.
If conditions deteriorate like they're supposed to on Friday, with wind gusts projected to reach 30 mph, it could open the tournament up to anyone.
For now, Pettersson is the man to catch.
Pettersson flew out of the gate on Thursday with a 5-foot birdie putt at the first. He got up and down from a bunker for birdie at the par-5 second, then hit a 5-iron to 25 feet to set up birdie at the fourth.
Just like that, Pettersson was flying out to a share of the lead.
"Obviously getting off to a good start was the key to the round," said Pettersson.
He reached the par-5 seventh in two with a 3-wood, then 2-putted for a birdie. Pettersson made the turn and knocked a 7-iron to a foot to set up an easy birdie at 10.
After five straight pars, Pettersson laid up at the par-5 16th. He wedged his third to seven feet and poured in the birdie putt to get to 6-under par.
Pettersson parred his last two, signed for a 66 and found himself in the lead when Joost Luiten stumbled.
"There really wasn't much wind on the front nine, so I knew I had to keep going low because I figured the wind would get up," said Pettersson. "The wind started blowing a little bit on the back nine, and I carried on solid play, hitting a lot of fairways, hitting a lot of greens and making a few putts. So it was a great day for me."
Pettersson has five PGA Tour wins, including one at this year's Heritage, and a European Tour title. That's a pretty solid career for the 34-year-old, but he owns only two top-10 finishes in major championships.
"You have to be on the whole week because of the setup of the golf courses, and I guess I haven't done that enough," admitted Pettersson. "Maybe I needed a little bit more experience of playing tougher golf courses, and I feel like I do that fairly well nowadays, so hopefully I can contend more."
Geoff Ogilvy, Luiten, Aaron Baddeley and Scott Piercy joined the group at 4- under par.
NOTES: Two of Pettersson's last three wins came in the state of South Carolina...Jeff Coston and Alan Morin share low club professional honors at 2- over 74...U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson struggled to a 7-over 79 on Thursday.