8 things learned and random musings from Day 1 at the PGA Championship
Day 1 of the PGA Championship had a little bit of everything. Here’s a quick recap of some things to chat about at the water cooler — or on your Zoom call — on Friday morning.
Bryson DeChambeau, back? It’s been a weird few years for DeChambeau, who went through a massive body transformation, won the 2020 U.S. Open, picked up another victory at Bay Hill in 2021 but has done little since. He struggled in 2022 — both with injuries and his form — and joined LIV Golf, and over the past year or so he’s changed his body yet again, shedding some of that weight he worked so hard to pack on.
On Thursday he ranked second in strokes gained: off the tee and 1st in strokes gained: total, putting together a four-under 66 for an early clubhouse lead. In his previous eight majors following his Winged Foot victory, he’s only finished in the top 30 twice and top 10 once.
“I’ve had to figure out what I did so well in 2018 and what made me so successful then,” DeChambeau said. “I feel like I’m catching on and trending that direction. Figured out a couple things this week, and it certainly paid off today.”
DeChambeau held the lead most of the day, and although a few players also got to four under during points of their rounds, he’s still the only one there after a mostly completed opening day. A frost delay in the morning pushed tee times back nearly two hours, so 11 groups failed to finish their rounds. Eric Cole is the overall leader at five under with four holes to play. He’ll resume his round early Friday morning from the middle of the par-4 6th fairway, his 15th hole of the day.
Scottie Scheffler is right where you thought he would be. Jon Rahm is not. Scheffler and Rahm were the heavy betting favorites entering the tournament, but Rahm never found a rhythm and finished among the bottom of the field in putting, signing for 76. Scheffler, on the other hand, is in a three-way tie for second after a three-under 67. He didn’t make a bogey — the first time he’s ever done so in a major.
Bryson hit a guy (with an approach shot). DeChambeau, who once was criticized for not yelling “Fore!” after off-line shots, hit an errant second on the 17th hole and hit PGA professional Kenny Pigman, who was teeing off on the 18th, in the back. The good news? Pigman seemed to shake it off, and DeChambeau did in fact yell “Fore!” But if you believe in karma this next piece isn’t for you: DeChambeau is the clubhouse leader at four under, while Pigman is tied for second-to-last at 11 over.
More from Bryson. Netjets appears to be misspelled here. No analysis to add.
Rory McIlroy finished better than Justin Thomas. If you didn’t watch their featured group today (Collin Morikawa was also in it), then this isn’t notable to you. But if you followed along, you might be absolutely stunned to know McIlroy (71) edged Thomas (72). Thomas was good, really good, most of his round. Oak Hill wasn’t letting players get too low, but Thomas was rolling the ball well despite some putts not dropping. He seemed steady. He had a birdie and 13 pars through 14 holes, then doubled 6 and bogeyed 9 to go three over in his last four holes.
McIlroy, meanwhile, hit just two fairways and had to scramble all morning. He had three bogeys and no birdies in his first 11 holes — that included an amazing par save from a run-off area on 2 — but found his form late. Maybe the long par save from below the green fueled him, because he played the final seven in two under to salvage his round and very much stay in this tournament.
It was a rough day for recent PGA Tour winners. Jason Day, who won the AT&T Byron Nelson on Sunday to snap a five-year winless drought, shot 76. His pre-tournament strategy did not seem to help him. He said on Wednesday he hadn’t seen the course yet, and probably wouldn’t even see it until his Thursday tee time.
“I’m just not fighting anything, I just want to make sure that I’m mentally prepared and mentally ready for [Thursday],” he said. “No matter how well I prepare, even if I go out and play a practice round, if I come in tired and exhausted, it won’t do me any favors, so I’m just going to try and take it easy.”
The Tour’s other most-recent winner didn’t fare much better. The last time Wyndham Clark played a tournament was two weeks ago, when he beat a stellar field in a designated event at the Wells Fargo Championship. On Thursday, his first tournament since, he opened with 77.
But it was a good week for recent LIV Golf winners. Dustin Johnson won on Sunday in Tulsa, Okla., and picked up right where he left off, firing a three-under 67. He was in the last group to finish on Thursday evening, and he failed to get up and down for par on the 18th. The 14-footer he barely missed was his only bogey of the day, and it dropped him one behind DeChambeau.