ST. LOUIS — The first round of another major championship is in the books, and once again the doomsday prophecies of early in the week have not come to pass. We appear locked and loaded for a star-studded weekend leaderboard filled with a variety of players shooting St. Louis Cardinal-red numbers. Here are nine things we learned from Day 1 at the PGA Championship.
1. Missouri loves company
The fans were out in full force to give a warm (and humid!) welcome to the entire field. It was a fiesty crowd out early to follow Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, although heat and alcohol wore out the hordes as the day wore on. The supergroups accentuate the sense of haves and have-nots that comprise the field but do ensure a raucous stadium-style environment around a couple of threesomes. That’ll be doubly true when Tiger & Co. hit the first tee Friday afternoon.
2. Bomb and gouge (if you want!)
It’s easy to say that everyone’s predictions of a big-bomber leaderboard are coming true: Gary Woodland leads, after all, and Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm all played well. But the leaderboard is largely comprised of shorter, straighter types. Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson, Austin Cook and Brian Gay don’t fit the promised description but each find themselves inside the top five.
3. Bumpy (but not grumpy)
“They’re bumpy, for sure,” Woods said. “They’re going to get beat up and chewed up,” Fowler added. “There’s more grass on them, which is definitely going to scuff up in the afternoon,” Ian Poulter explained. This wasn’t baseless grousing — the edges of greens have looked sketchy all week, and spike marks that accrued on the soft turf throughout the day led to a number of bad bounces. Ultimately, everyone survived in (relatively) good spirits, and Bellerive acquitted itself just fine through one round.
Tiger Woods on greens: “They’re bumpy. They were quicker in the practice rounds, but still slower than what we normally play on.” pic.twitter.com/NxF65HlXv2
— 590 The Fan KFNS (@590TheFan) August 9, 2018
4. Feelin’ the heat
This is August in Missouri, after all — it was never going to be cold. But temperatures soared into the mid-90s Thursday, leading several pros to bring wardrobe changes. Woods changed into a fresh shirt after playing his first two holes in three over par and played the next 16 in three under. ‘Twas a timely tweak.
5. Johnson & Johnson & Johnson
It was a good day for the two more-heralded Johnsons, as Zach birdied 18 to shoot 66 while Dustin made two late bogeys but still posted 67. It was less good for Zach J. Johnson, club pro from Davis Park Golf Course in Fruit Heights, Utah, who posted 76.
6. Midwest hospitality
The course took it relatively easy on its visitors; 40-something players were in red figures and all but two players broke 80, with nobody worse than 81. A condensed leaderboard will make for an exciting Friday cut watch and we’ll likely enter the weekend with nearly everyone in contention.
On a relatively calm day at a relatively calm golf course, there were only four dreaded “others” recorded — that is, scores of triple bogey or worse. But poor Matt Dobyns made two of ‘em. The New York-based club pro actually got off to a red-hot start; he birdied 1, 2 and 3 to share second place. “You start dreaming,” he said. “You see your name up there — I’m two back of the lead — you never know. Feeling fine. What the hell? I could shoot five under. But it wasn’t in the cards for me today.” That was an understatement. Twin 7s at Nos. 5 and 12 undid his round en route to a 76.
8. Small birds only
Just because Bellerive wasn’t forcing players into crooked numbers didn’t mean it was yielding excessive low scores, either: Zero eagles were recorded during the entirety of the opening round. Whether by coincidence or Missouri modesty, the golf course yielded over 400 birdies but nothing better.
9. The impact of Jarrod Lyle
Former PGA Tour pro Jarrod Lyle passed away Wednesday evening after a lengthy battle with leukemia, and tributes to the Australian were everywhere Thursday at Bellerive. Countless Tour pros took to social media to honor Lyle, from fellow Aussies like Mark Leishman, Robert Allenby and Greg Chalmers to superstars like Woods, McIlroy and Jack Nicklaus. Their tributes cited his compassion and enthusiasm for life and made it clear just how many lives he impacted in his 36 years. Lyle’s presence will continue to be felt across the golf world.
Rickie Fowler made a last minute wardrobe change and wore yellow today in honor of Jarrod Lyle. ??pic.twitter.com/jzUGNF20U1
— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) August 9, 2018