SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Players seem to brace for the worst at certain majors, right up until someone delivers the best score. It happened in 2004, the first time the PGA Championship came to Whistling Straits, a mysterious course that looked like a sheer brute with its rugged terrain off Lake Michigan.
Someone asked Sergio Garcia if he would take even par at the end of the week. "Yes," he replied, "and I'll win by four."
And then Darren Clarke opened with a 65 the next day.
Expect something similar when the PGA Championship begins Thursday at Whistling Straits. And expect a similar outcome. Clarke never broke 70 the rest of the week in 2004 and tied for 13th. It's not about the start. It's about the finish.
Seven players have opened the PGA Championship with a 64 or better. Here are the five who faded from view:
5. SCOTT SIMPSON
Scott Simpson could see this coming. He opened with a 7-under 64 at rain-softened Inverness in 1993 on a day of low scoring. He only had a one-shot lead, and after walking off the 18th green, he headed straight for the practice range.
"Obviously, that was a career round," Simpson said. "Odds are I'm not going to shoot that again."
And he didn't. He didn't break 70 the rest of the way and got progressively worse — 70-71-72 — and finished five shots out of the lead.
4. DOUG TEWELL
Doug Tewell was looking forward to the end of his season. He had a herniated disc and was gulping aspirin to get by. But in the first round of the 1985 PGA Championship at Cherry Hills, "I didn't feel a thing out there."
Tewell holed a bunker shot for birdie, made an eagle and came to the 18th hole with a chance to become only the seventh player to shoot 63 in a major. He made bogey from the bunker for a 64.
"Something to cherish," he said.
And something that didn't last. He followed with a 72, which wasn't awful. He followed that with a 77, which was. By the end of the week, Tewell was an afterthought. A closing 72 left him seven shots behind Hubert Green. He tied for 12th.
3. STEVE STRICKER
Steve Stricker stood 10 feet away from the first 62 in major championship history in 2011 at Atlanta Athletic Club, and television went to commercial. The score was posted before it came back on and watched one of the best putters in golf narrowly miss his shot at history.
He had to settle for the "63 club" which by 2011 was turning into a long list. Only after he walked off the green was he aware it was for the record. Not that it bothered him. "I wish I would have been able to make that putt to be one better than that group of guys," he said. "But 63 is a heck of a start."
It just wasn't much of a finish.
Stricker shot 74 the next day and kept slipping all the way down to a tie for 12th, seven shots out of the lead.
2. GRANT WAITE
Grant Waite had never made the cut in four tries at the PGA Championship when he arrived at Atlanta Athletic Club in 2001. He had never even had a round in the 60s. And when he rolled in an 18-foot putt on his final hole, he had a 6-under 64 and a two-shot lead.
Waite never won on the PGA Tour. The closest he ever came was in the Canadian Open a year earlier, when Tiger Woods beat him with that bunker shot over the water.
"I've never been close to any position like this before," Waite said. "This is an adventure. I want to look back at the end of the week and say I enjoyed it."
It didn't last. He followed with a 74 and was seven shots back going into the weekend. He closed with 73-72 and tied for 59th, 18 shots out of the lead.
1. MICHAEL BRADLEY
No one took advantage of soft Riviera in the 1995 PGA Championship like Michael Bradley. He missed a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole and had to settle for a 63, though it only gave him a one-shot lead.
Bradley spoke as if he knew it wouldn't last. He even referenced a pro-am in Saskatchewan when he shot a 59. "I shot 74 the next day," he said.
"There is no pressure on me," Bradley said. "If I shoot 80 tomorrow, no one will give it a second thought. But if I shoot 66, people will say, 'Who is this?' It's a chance to make a name for myself."
He shot 77 the next day, and no one had reason to give it a second thought. By then, he already was nine shot out of the lead and only make the cut by two shots. Bradley closed with rounds of 73-73 to tie for 54th, 16 shots out of the lead.