India’s Shubhankar Sharma and Anirban Lahiri came up with a strong performance on the opening day of the 100th PGA Championship even as Gary Woodland took the sole lead with a 6-under-64 at the Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis on Thursday.
Sharma, who is playing his first PGA Championship, registered three birdies and a two bogeys to finish with 1-under 69 for his first ever under-par score in a Major to be tied 33rd after the first round. The 22-year-old had finished T51 at the Open Championship last month and had missed the cut in the Masters Tournament and the US Open earlier this year.
Lahiri, on the other hand, had an up and down round as he registered five birdies and two bogeys in the last 10 holes for a combined total of even-par-70 to be tied on 48th with the likes of former Major winners Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
Gary Woodland, who has never cracked the top-10 in 27 major starts, was the unlikely leader at the end of the day with fellow American Rickie Fowler a shot behind.
On a day when Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy grinded out level par, unlikely Woodland – who snapped a five-year PGA victory drought by winning in February at Phoenix – unleashed the best putting round of his career at Bellerive Country Club.
“When I see putts go in, that just gets me going,” Woodland said. “It’s really starting to click. I thought I was putting well. It was nice to see them go in.”
World number 44 Woodland, whose best major finishes have been shares of 12th at the 2011 PGA and 2016 British Open, sank seven birdie putts in 10 holes to pass Fowler, who matched the best major round of his career with a 65.
Ninth-ranked Fowler, twice a top-five finisher in every major, is without a win to show for it, having finished second at the Masters in April. “I always have hope. It’s not something I necessarily worry about,” Fowler said. “Keep putting ourselves in position, get in contention. We’ll just keep beating down that door.”
Woods, a 14-time major champion making a comeback after spinal fusion surgery, battled back all day to overcome a bogey-double bogey start.
“It kept me in the golf tournament,” Woods said. “I could have easily gone the other way, but I hung in there and turned it around.”
Four-time major champion McIlroy found a bunker at 10 and made bogey, then sank birdie putts at 11 13, but made bogey at 18 and parred in from there.
“It wasn’t that easy out there,” said McIlroy. “I gave myself a few chances. I finished off with nine pars. It could have been a little better.”
(With AFP inputs)