Stricker ties low mark in a major at PGA Championship

Steve Stricker matched the lowest round in under 63 en route to the round lead at the PGA Championship.

Stricker had 12 feet for birdie at the ninth, his last hole of the opening round. Had it dropped, Stricker would have been the first player to fire a 62 in a major.

As great as Stricker's opening round was, Tiger Woods' was equally bad.

The four-time PGA Champion, who missed the last two majors with a leg injury, struggled to a seven-over 77, which was Woods' worst opening round in a major championship and his worst score in a PGA Championship, one of many big- name tournaments he has dominated over the years.

"I'm not down. I'm really angry right now," said Woods.

The 14-time major winner used to be the one making history at golf's biggest events. On Thursday, it was Stricker putting his name in the record books, although he could have stood alone in major championship lore.

"It really never registered," Stricker said of his putt on 18 being so historic. "I was just trying to make a birdie and finish eight-under, and I really was concentrating on the putt, but never thought about the history part of it."

Rory McIlroy didn't make history on Thursday, but his round won't soon be forgotten.

The reigning U.S. Open champion and pre-tournament favorite injured his wrist on the third hole Thursday, but gutted it out and finished with an even-par 70.

A physical therapist came out and worked on McIlroy and he taped his wrist and arm.

"It's the last major of the year," said McIlroy, who will undergo an MRI Thursday night. "I might as well play through the pain. If I can strap it up and play tomorrow, I will."

The other big story on Thursday wasn't a positive one.

Woods briefly shared the lead Thursday morning after three birdies in his first five holes, but the round took a drastic nosedive.

Woods played the next four holes in five-over par, including double-bogeys at the 15th and 18th holes.

The second nine wasn't much better, playing it at five-over. Woods double- bogeyed the sixth after a splash in the water, tallied four bogeys -- including one at his last -- and a lonely birdie at five.

This is clearly not the same Woods that won major championships with incredible frequency. After a prolonged absence earlier this year to heal a leg injury, Woods returned to competitive golf last week at the WGC- Bridgestone Invitational.

He didn't contend in Akron, but this was a bit of a stunner coming from the former world No. 1 who plummeted all the way down to 30th in this week's world rankings.

To put Woods' first-round disaster in focus, club pro Bob Sowards beat him by eight shots. He was matched at 77 by Jerry Pate, who won the 1976 U.S. Open at Atlanta Athletic Club and got into the field this week only after he petitioned the PGA of America for a spot to say goodbye to competitive major championship golf.

"I'm in a major championship, it's time to score, time to play and time to let it go," said Woods. "Obviously, it's tough."

Stricker's fellow Wisconsin native Jerry Kelly is alone in second place at five-under 65, followed by 2003 PGA Champion Shaun Micheel, who had a four- under 66.

Scott Verplank played his practice rounds this week with Stricker and Kelly and it paid off for all three. Verplank is alone in fourth after a first-round 67.

"We saw that you really didn't need to overpower this golf course, that position was the key," said Kelly. "It certainly helped me. I know it helped those two guys, as well."

It definitely helped Stricker.

He opened the championship with three consecutive birdies and reached four- under par with a birdie at the par-three 15th. Stricker closed his opening side with a 25-foot birdie putt at the 18th.

Stricker kept the momentum going with a 15-foot birdie putt at No. 1. He birdied the par-five fifth and needed to play the last four holes at one-under par to break the major scoring record.

It didn't happen, but he certainly had some chances, none better than at the ninth.

Stricker's drive missed the fairway left, but he had a good lie and got plenty of club on the ball. He knocked his approach to 12 feet, but his putt missed right, ending the bid for history.

Shed no tears for Stricker.

The 44-year-old leads by two after the first round of the PGA Championship. He is majorless in his career and after back-to-back Comeback Player of the Year Awards, Stricker is as primed as ever to get the title that has eluded him for so long.

He's won two PGA Tour events a season for the last three years, including victories this year at the Memorial and the John Deere Classic.

Despite the record-equaling round, Stricker is well aware of the marathon nature of majors.

"You have to take one day at a time here in every tournament," said Stricker. "This is just a good start. One round under my belt, and you know, take tomorrow as it comes and go from there."

American Ryder Cup captain and 1997 PGA Champion Davis Love III, Matteo Manassero, John Senden, Brendon de Jonge, Bill Haas, Brandt Jobe, Anders Hansen and Simon Dyson share fifth place at two-under 68.

Phil Mickelson, the 2005 PGA Champion, shot a one-over 71.

NOTES: Adam Scott, who won last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, shot a one-under 69...World No. 1 Luke Donald shot an even-par 70...Ryo Ishikawa shot a 15-over 85.