A look at some of the big stories from Thursday’s first round of the PGA Championship at Oak Hill
Written by Paul Hodowanic @PaulHodowanic
Eric Cole, a 34-year-old PGA TOUR rookie playing in just his second major, leads the suspended first round of the PGA Championship. Cole made six birdies and just a single bogey over his first 14 holes Thursday. He will return early Friday to complete the final four holes of his first round.
Cole was a mini-tour legend in South Florida before making it to the TOUR, winning more than 50 times on the Minor League Golf Tour. He played his first Korn Ferry Tour season in 2020-21 and graduated from that circuit last year. He has had a successful first TOUR season, finishing second to Chris Kirk in a playoff at The Honda Classic and T5 at the Mexico Open at Vidanta. Cole ranks 46th in the FedExCup.
"It's nice. I like it a lot," replied Cole when asked for his reaction to seeing his name atop the leaderboard. "Whenever you play, you want to compete to win. That's the spot I like to see my name at, and hopefully it is there more often."
Cole missed the cut in his only previous major, the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. He comes from a family of successful pros, as his mother, Laura Baugh, was the 1973 LPGA Rookie of the Year and his father, Bobby Cole, won the 1977 Buick Open on the PGA TOUR. Baugh is a PGA of America member and operates a golf academy in northeast Florida.
Scottie’s bogey-free start: Scottie Scheffler has already accomplished plenty in his young PGA TOUR career. Currently No. 2 in the world, he’s already reached No. 1 numerous times. He has victories at THE PLAYERS Championship and the Masters.
One feat he had yet to conquer: a bogey-free round in a major championship.
That changed Thursday as the 26-year-old Texan carded a blemish-free 3-under 67. On a day when many imploded around Oak Hill, Scheffler’s opening round looked about as easy as you can imagine.
Scottie Scheffler's interview after Round 1 of the PGA Championship
Only two of his 15 made par putts came from outside 7 feet. Starting on the 10th hole, Scheffler took advantage of the drivable par-4 14th, making his first birdie of the day. He then capitalized on two stellar shots, knocking in a 15-footer for birdie on the par-3 fifth and converting on a short birdie putt on the par-4 eighth after stuffing his 121-yard approach to 3 feet.
“Today was probably the easiest conditions we'll see all week with the golf course. So getting around with no bogeys was really good,” Scheffler said. “I mean, that's pretty much how I shot 3-under. There's not really many birdie opportunities out there. So if you can limit the mistakes, good things will happen.”
Scottie Scheffler dials in approach to set up birdie at the PGA Championship
It’s his first bogey-free round in 51 major rounds. He was the only player without a bogey in the morning wave. Coming off a T5 finish at last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson, Scheffler has finished inside the top-12 in each of his last 13 events. He’s set himself up to continue that trend, and more, as he chases his second major championship.
Rory rebounds: Over the back of the green on No. 2, his 11th hole of the day, Rory McIlroy looked like he was headed toward back-to-back missed cuts to start this year’s major season. Already 3-over on the day, McIlroy was staring at a 37-footer for par up a severe slope that he absolutely needed. Par felt like a longshot, double bogey was well within play. Given he had just bogeyed three of his previous six holes, it didn’t look promising.
But history tells us that as soon as you count out the four-time major champion, he reels you back in. He did the same Thursday. McIlroy drained the long par putt, then rattled off back-to-back birdies to finish the last seven holes 2-under and salvage his chances for his first major championship since 2014. He finished at 1-over.
Rory McIlroy throws a dart to yield birdie at the PGA Championship
“It was massive. I don't know how -- depending on what happens over the next three days and what I go on to do, you know, I may look back at that shot as being the sort of turning point of the week,” McIlroy said.
Following the par save on the par-4 second, McIlroy stuck his tee shot on the 209-yard par-3 third to 2 feet to make birdie. Then on the 617-yard par-5 fourth, McIlroy hit two great shots to set up an eagle chance from 22 feet away. He narrowly missed the putt but tapped in for another birdie.
A three-putt on the par-3 fifth dropped him back to 2-over, but McIlroy added a birdie on the par-4 eighth to end his round with some momentum.
McIlroy admitted he is struggling with his swing – and he was particularly erratic off the tee during the first round. He hit only two fairways.
“I can definitely hit it better than that,” he said.
Rahm’s uncharacteristic round: Perhaps the most surprising development of the day was Jon Rahm’s struggles. The No. 1 player in the world carded his worst score relative to par this season, a 6-over 76.
It was even more startling considering Rahm was 1-under through six holes. But the round slowly began to get away from him on the par-4 16th, his seventh hole of the day. After he found the rough off the tee, Rahm failed to get up and down from the greenside rough to drop back to even par and proceeded to bogey four of his next six holes. He dropped another shot on No. 6, then made a double bogey on the par-4 seventh, missing a 4-foot bogey try.
No part of Rahm’s game was working. He hit just five of 14 fairways, seven of 18 greens and was just 4-for-11 in scrambling opportunities. He lost more than two shots to the field on the greens. Rahm, a two-time major champion, has made the cut in his last 14 major appearances. He’ll have plenty of work to do Friday if he intends to keep the streak alive.
Viktor Hovland (68): Hovland’s stretch of strong starts in majors continues. The Norwegian rattled off five birdies to keep his round afloat and finish 2-under. He was tied for the lead after the first round of the Masters earlier this year and tied for fifth after 18 holes of last year’s Open Championship.
Adam Scott (68): The 42-year-old was near the lead before making a double-bogey 6 on 18. Scott was the first-round co-leader in the 2013 PGA at Oak Hill before finishing T5. He arrived at Oak Hill this year in good form, having finished T5 at the Wells Fargo Championship and T8 in the AT&T Byron Nelson.
Adam Scott throws a dart to set up birdie at the PGA Championship
Keegan Bradley (68): Bradley led the morning wave with seven birdies, but a double bogey on No. 15 and bogeys on two of his last three holes (Nos. 7 and 9) kept Bradley from the lead. Still, a 2-under start puts him right in the mix.
Michael Block (70): Block is the leading PGA professional after shooting even par in the opening round. He was 3 over par after 10 holes but made three birdies and no bogeys the rest of the way. Block is making his fifth PGA Championship appearance. He is seeking his first made cut. Thursday represented his lowest round in a PGA Championship.
Sahith Theegala (71): Theegala got as low as 3-under, but five bogeys on his back nine quickly took the wind out of his PGA Championship debut.
Justin Thomas (72): A double bogey on the par-4 sixth derailed what was a blemish-free start to his PGA Championship title defense. Thomas birdied his first hole, the 10th, and rattled off 13 straight pars before making a mess of No. 6, the hardest hole on the course through the morning wave. Add another bogey coming in and Thomas had work to do as he chases his third Wanamaker Trophy.
Jordan Spieth (73): Nursing a left wrist injury, Spieth looked a bit rusty after he had to withdraw from last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson. Chasing the last leg of the career Grand Slam, Spieth bogeyed his first hole of the day and never got under par. He made three bogeys, a double and two birdies to shoot 3-over.
Jason Day (76): A winner last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson to snap a five-year winless drought, Day struggled to carry over his success. He failed to make a birdie and bogeyed his last two holes to drop to 6-over.
Matt Fitzpatrick (76): There were no birdies on Fitzpatrick’s scorecard Thursday. The reigning U.S. Open champ struggled off the tee, hitting only four fairways.