Published August 09, 2013
PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Oak Hill may never be this vulnerable again.
Adam Scott and Jim Furyk sure took advantage of the rain-soaked course, which looked more like a regular tour stop than a test of major proportions.
So did a bunch of other players who signed for 60s on Day 1 of the PGA Championship.
But not Tiger Woods.
Looking very much like a player who will soon be 0 for 18 in the majors since his 2008 triumph at the U.S. Open, Woods failed to capitalize on a setup that was very much there for the taking.
He closed with a double-bogey to finish with a 1-over 71 and go into Friday's second round with a staggering 49 players standing between him and the top spot on the leaderboard.
"The round, realistically, could've been under par easily," said Woods, who came in with five victories this season, including a seven-shot runaway last week at the Bridgestone.
With overnight showers and humid conditions keeping the course soft, birdies fell into the cup at an alarming rate. Scott ripped off five in a row on the way to a 65. Furyk had a bogey-free round going until a stumble at the final hole left him with a 65, as well. Lee Westwood and unheralded Canadian David Hearn were one shot back, and a total of 35 players broke par.
That compares to only 10 rounds in the 60s when the PGA Championship was at Oak Hill a decade ago.
Graeme McDowell, who shot 70, expects it to be much more challenging by the weekend.
"The golf course can easily be protected with pins," he said. "They can soon tuck these pins away and make this a difficult test."
While Woods came in as the overwhelming favorite, Scott increasingly looks like a player who will add more major titles to the one he finally got in a Masters playoff back in April.
Just three weeks ago, he had the Sunday lead on the back nine at Muirfield before fading. In the last major of the year, there were times he looked unstoppable.
"Just got on a bit of a roll and hit a few shots close," Scott said. "I didn't have too much putting to do. You've got to take advantage when it happens, because it doesn't happen too much in the majors. Nothing to complain about in 65."
He had already surged into a tie with Furyk when storms moved through the Rochester area, forcing a 71-minute delay. After the weather cleared, Scott added a sixth birdie on the par-4 14th to reach 6 under. He was on pace to tie the major championship record at Oak Hill until a three-putt bogey on the 16th. But he closed on a high after an errant drive, rolling in a 15-footer to save par.
Furyk, who won his lone major at the U.S. Open in 2003 at Olympia Fields, has gone nearly three years since his last win at the Tour Championship to capture the FedEx Cup and win PGA Tour player of the year.
Still fresh are the four close calls from a year ago, including the U.S. Open.
He was as steady as Scott, rarely putting himself in trouble until the end of the round. Furyk missed the fairway to the right and had to pitch out because of thick rough and trees blocking his way to the green. That led to his only bogey, but still his lowest first-round score in 19 appearances at the PGA Championship.
"Usually disappointed with ending the day on a bogey," Furyk said. "But you know, 65, PGA, is not so bad."
Still seeking his first major at age 40, Westwood posted his best score ever in the PGA and seemed to have no hangover from losing a 54-hole lead in the British Open last month.
"These guys are good. There are a lot of good players playing in the tournament," Westwood said. "Somebody is going to hit it straight, and somebody is going to shoot a good score."
Even Rory McIlroy got in on the act. The defending champion, at the end of a major season that has been a major disappointment, came out firing with three birdies on the opening four holes and made the turn in 32 until back-to-back bogeys. He wound up with a 69.
A resurgent Paul Casey was in the group at 67, while U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, British Open runner-up Henrik Stenson and the ageless Miguel Angel Jimenez were among 11 players at 68.
British Open champion Phil Mickelson wound up with the same score as Woods, only they arrived at 71 on vastly different roads. Woods had only two birdies. Mickelson shot 71 despite two double bogeys.
On the par-5 fourth hole, Lefty hooked his tee shot out of bounds and nearly lost the next tee shot in the same place. "Awful," he surmised. On the closing hole, Mickelson looked as if he were back at Winged Foot — wild left off the tees, a reckless attempt to get through the trees, and another double bogey.
He headed straight to the practice range, even summoning coach Butch Harmon down from the television booth.
"You need to get off to a good start that first round so you're not playing catch-up all the time," Mickelson said. "Now I've got to come out (Friday) and get a little more aggressive and try to shoot something in the mid to low 60s to get back in it for the weekend."
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