Thursday At The PGA: Rory Turns The First Round Table
Some round one notes from Southern Hills. Plus, Friday's wild forecast, the bunkers are real hazards, ESPN's Sage Steele gets hit by a tee shot, Dave Stockton says Phil wasn't missed and much more.
A busy day at Southern Hills saw Rory McIlroy overcome his first round issues to post a card free of 5’s until the very end: 65. He leads Will Zalatoris by one after a both played in the gusting but comfortable morning conditions. A few notes on the play, where 26 players broke par.
The afternoon wave averaged just over a stroke higher. They face a grim Friday morning forecast. (More below.)
Slow play concerns due to tee shots crossing over other holes did not materialize as players predicted. “You know what, it was nice,” said Xander Schauffele. “It was very fluid. Our flow of the round was awesome. I personally thought it was going to be a lot slower just with how hard the course is playing.” Still, most groups took around 5:20 to play in warm temps.
McIlroy hit 10 drives of 320 yards or more.
Known for his putting struggles, Zalatoris led the field in strokes gained putting (+3.61).
According to the on-site forecast: “Strong winds are likely Friday morning 15-25 G 45 mph before gradually decreasing to 15-20 G 25-30 mph for the afternoon. Scattered showers and thunderstorms will develop towards evening as a cold front approaches from the north. Storms could be severe Friday night with large hail, strong winds and heavy rainfall. Showers and isolated t-storms will linger through the day Saturday as the front slowly moves to the south. Temperatures will be cooling into the 60s through the day as well. After a chilly start Sunday morning, temperatures should warm to near 70 degrees under partly cloudy skies.”
Bunkers As Hazards
The Southern Hills bunkers induced some ugly recovery shots Thursday even after many players had made equipment admustments. They are presented by Russ Myers’ crew in the sustainable Melbourne raking style where the floor is maintained daily and the face compacted. Tiger Woods was one of those to struggle.
“The sand is a lot faster than I thought it would be,” he said after going 2 for 6 in sand saves. “Kind of been that way all week, especially if you get up in the areas where it's not raked. I had a couple of those balls where it was in those areas. It's like, is there a lot of sand here, is there not, how should I play it, and when you dig in with your feet you're not in those areas where it's raked. I feel like sometimes the sand -- I'm guessing, and I guessed wrong.”
The field recovered at a 44% rate in round one. The 2022 PGA Tour average is 49.6%. And it should be noted: there were no buried lies seen during the full day of coverage.
The sand is a “Tour Signature Blend” from Fairmont Minerals in Chardon, Ohio. In the recent restoration project, the sand was harvested from the old bunkers and re-used in recent work to present a more natural hue.
“As impressive as they are week in and week out from Tour bunkers, they’ve been equally unimpressive today,” ESPN’s David Duval said during the broadcast.
Andy North, working as an on-course reporter, said the bunkers are “beautifully maintained” and that the players “just have to judge the firmness, they’re awfully simple to play out of.”
Justin Thomas did not agree.
“I'm sure you've seen from watching the coverage, it's really difficult to get spin, basically impossible,” Thomas said. “Some of those bunkers shots that are generally pretty easy or guaranteed up-and-downs definitely is not the case this
After a wild and weird 71, Scottie Scheffler did say the coarseness is different but not a huge obstacle to overcome.
“Bunkers aren't supposed to be that easy to play out of.”
ESPN’s Sage Steele Hit By A Jon Rahm Tee Shot
ESPN anchor Sage Steele was struck by a Jon Rahm tee shot and one eyewitness told The Quadrilateral they “saw her on the ground, holding her nose, mouth or chin area” and her hands “covered in blood.” Medical personnel were summoned but the PGA of America was unaware of the incident and deferred to ESPN. A spokesman there also had no comment.
I was standing behind the tee when Rahm hit a hard hook into the left trees. He immediately yelled “Fore Left!” and aggressively waved his arm pointing left. The impact must have been brutal: Rahm’s tee shot ended up in the center of the fairway.
A review of the Featured Group coverage showed nothing abnormal or signs that Rahm or his caddie had any idea someone was injured by the tee shot.
ESPN’s Will Haskett called it a “monumentous break” while on-course reporter Suzy Whaley gave no indication how the ball went from so far into the trees to the fairway center, instead preferring to blather on about Maxwell rolls. Social media accounts suggested Sirius/XM’s Mark Carnevale reported to listeners that Rahm’s tee shot hit “Paige Steele” and later corrected himself.
Stockton: “Phil Was Not Missed”
The 1970 PGA Champion stopped by the interview area to discuss his memories of Southern Hills and the previous evening’s Champions Dinner.
“It was a fun evening,” Dave Stockton said. “Phil was not missed. I think Phil would have been a big distraction whether he was here -- the story here this week is the PGA.”
Stockton raved about a more intimate gathering format that started last year at Kiawah. He said the eleven players who came stayed around late to swap stories.
“I really feel bad that neither one of the other two guys, Tiger and I being the two that have won here, but Nick Price and Raymond [Floyd] weren't here, and I wish they had have been.
“I don't quite understand why because I think it's very important for us as champions to come back. I'm pretty assuming that at the Masters you come back --if I'd have won it I'd be there every year, and that's what this should be. And last night -- this is two years now we've had it [this way], so we had no distractions and it was really neat.”
Distractions=PGA of America Board of Directors.
Will Zalatoris on his bizarre 66: “I think I either made four or five 25-footers. It was kind of a bizarre day. I didn't drive it great early and then drove it nicely at the end, but I think all six of my birdies came from the rough today, which is just very bizarre.”
Matt Kuchar (67) on the 18th (smiling as he said it): “I have to think the members must dread 18. I try to envision how they play it. I don't know that they can tee off enough forward to enjoy that golf hole. It's hard. It's a beast.“It's a tough driving hole, and then certainly having 200 yards kind of straight uphill is an awfully challenging approach shot.
Tiger Woods on his conservative approach: “I was playing to my spots, and those guys obviously have a different game plan. It's just different.The game is played very differently now, and it's very aggressive. We were talking about it today, Joey and I, the days of the Lee Janzen’s and the Scott Simpson’s and the Faldo’s of the world, playing that kind of golf is gone. You go out there and hit driver a lot, and if you have a hot week, you have a hot week and you're up there.”
Rory McIlroy (65) on the huge crowds and playing with Tiger: “It's different playing with him here than it is say at East Lake, because East Lake feels so claustrophobic, the crowds are so much more on top of you. Here it's big wide corridors. I feel like there's a lot of room, so it doesn't feel as oppressive as some other venues.”
Scottie Scheffler (72): “The golf course is very challenging. But the setup was fair. The greens were good. The fairways are in good shape. The golf course is in great shape. Outside of a little bit of wind and then 150 guys walking on the greens they get a little chewed up, but other than that, things are in a good spot out there.”
David Duval on Phil Mickelson during ESPN’s first round coverage: “He’s dug a hole that I’m struggling to see him getting out of.”
Trump On The PGA, Saudi Arabia, Bevacqua
Donald Trump took to his “Truth” social to whine about the PGA of America, PGA Tour and endorse LIV Golf…
The former president also called up The Fire Pit Collective’s Michael Bamberger and said he will not be watching the PGA Championship, continued to praise the Saudi regime’s unlimited cash reservoir and implied he helped former PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua get that job.
In remarkable and personal detail and telling the story in the present tense, Trump described how Bevacqua went from the USGA to a talent agency before becoming, with Trump’s help (per Trump) the PGA of America’s CEO. Trump knew Bevacqua when he worked for the USGA. “So Pete is now an agent or something and I speak to him and I say, ‘Pete, do you have any interest in heading the PGA of America?’” Trump said, telling the story with a certain glee and energy. “He says, ‘Uh, I would cut off my right arm for it.’ And then Pete gets hired for a fortune by NBC — not my friends, NBC — but Pete gets hired for an absolute fortune by NBC. After Bevacqua’s move from the PGA of America to NBC Sports, in Trump’s telling, the standing of Trump Golf with the PGA of America fell.
Alex Miceli reports that UPS has dropped Lee Westwood over his coming move to the LIV events, while Eamon Lynch says they’ve done the same with longtime ambassador Louis Oosthuizen.
Back tomorrow with more!