PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Scotty Schaeffler split the lead in the PGA Championship, at least for now, when he made an unexpected prediction Thursday afternoon. “Oak Hill Country Club have already played terrifying in the first round and are about to get even more terrifying.
Expect strong winds. It started to rain. And, of course, the East Course has recently been restored to revive architect Donald J. Ross’s satanic witchcraft of his century.
“It’s probably one of those places where you hit one shot at the very edge of offline, and sometimes you hit a good shot and you end up in a place where you get pretty penalized,” said Schaeffler, the 2022 Masters Tournament winner. said. Completed a no-bogey round at a major championship on Thursday. “There are a lot of difficult holes out there.”
The rough has a ferocious retaliation and the fairways are too hard for the ball to stay there – even after the frost that delayed Thursday’s start by nearly two hours softened the turf. Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy hit two fairways all day, battling crosswinds off the tee.
But outside of Rochester, New York, there was no parade of distressed players publicly denouncing the setting. Instead, when a fierce leaderboard took shape before play was interrupted by darkness, admiration, albeit with admiration, took hold, even though there was a chance of winning. . The fleeing winner seemed far away.
“It’s a very difficult golf course,” said Bryson DeChambeau, who finished second with a 4-under 66, one stroke behind sole leader Eric Cole. Cole didn’t finish the round on Thursday night. “I’ve been watching it all week and I’m like, oh, I don’t even know how a sub-par shot is even possible on some golf holes here.”
Kurt Kitayama, who was even par, said, “It’s a tough play.” “I don’t think anyone is really comfortable.”
“It rivals some of the toughest major venues I’ve played in,” said Corey Connors, a three-time Masters top-10, after rounding at 3-under.
DeChambeau, who has been out of form as usual since winning the 2020 U.S. Open at New York’s Winged Foot, came after an early bogey on the 12th hole. (In a field of 156, the tournament organizer chose to start his two tee starts. Due to a frost delay, the final group tee time was postponed to 4:32pm, his less than four hours until sunset. it was done.)
He came under par for the first time on the 16th of the 7th hole and finished the front 9 at 1 under par. He scored three birdies on the back nine, including a birdie on the 6th, the most threatening hole at Oak Hill by course restorer Andrew Green, and went to 4-under. Afterwards, “I’m so used to flying everywhere,” he admitted that a day of straight driving could be all but a memory by Friday evening.
“Always, one day you have it and the next day it’s gone,” DeChambeau said. “You just have to be careful.”
Only a week after his round near Dallas, where he birdied or eagled five of his first six holes, Schaeffler found what looked like a ditch on the par-5 fourth. His tee shot turned and landed miserably near the hole. wood. Anyway, I saved par in the end.
“We were able to switch winds and had some really good ups and downs so we could continue the round,” said Schaeffler. Schaeffler ended the day in a tie for third place alongside Connors and fellow Masters winner Dustin Johnson. “You don’t want to hit a bogey on a par 5, especially when there are only two guys in this place. It was a good run.”
Cole, 34, made three consecutive birdies later in the day to move the score to 5-under and move onto the leaderboard. He also played the other major in his career, the 2021 US Open, but missed out.
“When I had the chance, I just happened to read the chance correctly and hit a good putt, and they came in today, so that’s good,” Cole said Thursday night.
The first round, with 11 groups scheduled to resume play on Friday morning, was even more confusing for the other groups.
Japanese golfer Kazuki Higa missed out on the other two majors of his career, entering day one with birdies on four of his first five holes, but finishing with four consecutive bogeys or double bogeys. Official World Golf Ranking No. 1 player and last month’s Masters Tournament winner Jon Rahm then finished in six overs, becoming the world’s No. 1 player in a single round at the PGA Championship since 1987. It was the worst result ever. And in the final round of the Brooks Masters against Rahm, Koepka, who finished Thursday with a two-over 72, said the first round was “the worst I’ve had in a while.”
Jordan Spieth, who withdrew from last week’s tournament with a wrist injury, played on Thursday and signed a three-over tie alongside past major champions Shane Lowry and Gary Woodland. McIlroy, who recently missed the Masters due to poor performance, finished the day with a one-over. But his outs included an uphill putt from about 37 feet to save par at number 2, perhaps the kind of shock he suggested he could remain a contender. gave
“Depending on what happens over the next three days and what I do going forward, I may look back on that shot as kind of the turning point of the week,” he said.
The rigors of events like this week helped shape Green’s mindset when he began working on building the course, which hosted the PGA Championship, the Ryder Cup and three U.S. Opens in 2003 and 2013. .
“We knew that the golf course had a great major championship legacy, and that the club wanted to continue, so we decided to combine Donald Ross design elements with modern championship golf. We had to blend it,” Green said in an interview earlier this year.
The greens once again took on an unconventional shape, the bunkers became more wild and Ross’ signature grassy mounds, the so-called Chocolate Drops, emerged.
“I’m playing really well, I can hit fairways, I can hit greens, I can make putts, I can make shots at a few under par,” said Victor Hovland, who finished at two under par on Thursday. “But if you get even a little off, the rough can be very tough. , which becomes a never-ending cycle.”
Qualifying is scheduled for Friday evening if daytime permits, with the top 70 and the tie-breakers advancing to the weekend. Then it starts to rain.