Schauffele can’t get up and down from a greenside bunker at 7 … but it’s a short hole, and he’s still making his par four. Koepka races his first putt at 6 a good 12 feet past the cup … but he arrows a nerveless saver back into the hole. And on the monster par-three 8th (it’s 251 yards) Kaymer sets his hybrid out to the left and fails to fade it back in. He’s in deep oomska … but chips deliciously to four feet and tidies up to save his par.
-5: Kaymer (17*), Schauffele (16*), Z Johnson (15*)
-4: Scheffler (F), Day (17*), Koepka (15*), Cauley (15)
Bud Cauley drains a monster on 15, the best part of 100 feet from the fringe at the front, over a hump to the right, and back into the cup. Such a smooth stroke, too. Exquisitely judged. He’s -4. Compare and contrast with Jordan Spieth, who on paper is looking to complete his career grand slam this week, but in reality isn’t currently in possession of the game to do so. In deep grass to the left of 5, he overhits a flop straight through the green and down the swale on the other side. He’s got the good grace to smile wryly at his error, but he’s got to bundle home from 30 feet if he’s to save par. Nope, and he’s back to +2. He’s struggling badly right now. That Wanamaker-shaped gap on his CV won’t be filled this week. Don’t rule out 2021, though.
McIlroy struggles his way up the par-five 4th. He’s always out of position. And there’s no surprise when he’s left with a 12-footer to save his par. But he makes it. A birdie opportunity may be gone, but that’s a momentum saver, and he remains at -1.
A bogey for Scottie Scheffler at the 9th. But the 24-year-old – born in New Jersey but brought up in Texas – signs for a superb opening round of 66. Scheffler already has two top-three finishes on Tour this year, plus another in the top five. No record in the majors yet, barring his low-amateur finish at the US Open in 2017, but everyone’s got to make their statement victory sometime. There would be worse times to do it.
The winner of the last men’s major, Shane Lowry, has been going around quietly. Pars all the way, other than bogey at 14 followed by birdies at 17 and 1. He’s -1 through 13 holes. Meanwhile the much-tipped Collin Morikawa is piecing things together after going out in 36. He’s birdied 2 and now 4 to rise to -1.
Disaster for the world number one Justin Thomas at the par-three 3rd. His tee shot finds the bunker guarding the front right. He thins the sand escape through the green, then underhits the chip coming back. He can’t make the 15-foot bogey putt, and he slips back to level par. Brooks Koepka meanwhile finds the par-five 4th in two, then takes another couple of calm strokes for the birdie that brings him where he’s been telling everyone he would be. Walking it like he talks it.
-5: Scheffler (17*), Kaymer (15*), Schauffele (14*), Z Johnson (13*)
-4: Day (15*), Koepka (13*)
Xander Schauffele is going to win a major at some point soon. He surely is. He’s already got five top-six finishes at the majors, and he’s only played in 11 of them! Here he sends his wedge over the flag at 5, landing it 12 feet past and spinning it back to kick-in distance. He joins the group at the top.
-5: Scheffler (16*), Kaymer (14*), Schauffele (14*), Z Johnson (13*)
-4: Day (14*)
Hi-jinx dept. Here’s Alex Noren’s current run. Birdie, birdie, bogey, eagle, bogey, bogey, birdie, par. The par is probably the most surprising, it’s only his third of the day and he’s played 11 holes. He’s -3. Meanwhile Scott Piercy has played eight holes so far. Six fours followed by two twos! That sequence involved two birdies, a bogey and an eagle. He’s -3 as well.
Martin Kaymer keeps hold of the joint leadership with a strange two-putt from off the side of the green at 5. Putting up a hill and onto the green in the Scottish style, the ball nearly topples back down the bank, but just about hangs on. Kaymer then rattles in the 25-footer he’s left with! He’s joined there by Scheffler, who sends his second at 7 to 12 feet and guides in the left-to-right slider. Meanwhile birdie for Justin Thomas at 2; the world number one moves to -2. Bogey for his partner Tiger, though, after he misreads a left-breaking ten-footer, and he slips back to level par.
Koepka isn’t concerned by his latest bogey. He creams his second at 2 from 170 yards to six feet. In goes the bounce-back birdie effort, and the defending champ is -3 again. Meanwhile at -4, the early leader Scheffler is joined by his near-namesake Xander Schauffele, who cards his third birdie since the turn at 4.
The 2010 champ hits the front! Martin Kaymer drains a 50-footer for eagle on 4, following birdies at 1 and 3. This burst of action launches him to the top of the leaderboard at -5. But he doesn’t have the lead all to himself, as Zach Johnson birdies 3 after knocking in a 20-footer on the par-three. Birdie for Jason Day at 4, meanwhile.
-5: Kaymer (13*), Z Johnson (12*)
-4: Scheffler (15*), Day (13*)
McIlroy makes it four threes in a row with birdie at 1. This is a superb fightback. He’s starting to give himself chances with some fine approach work. He’s -1.
Alex Noren is having quite the up and down round. His last five holes: birdie, birdie, bogey, eagle, bogey. The latest slip takes him out of the lead and plops him back to -3, alongside Martin Kaymer (birdie at 3), Gary Woodland and Dustin Johnson (birdies at 1) and Xander Schauffele (birdies at 1 and 2). No Brooks Koepka, though, who made a horlicks of 1 and drops back to -2. This is a great leaderboard, and we’re barely started.
-4: Scheffler (14*), Z Johnson (11*)
-3: Finau (13*), Kaymer (12*), Day (12*), Schauffele (12*), Cauley (11), Woodland (10*), D Johnson (10*), Noren (8), Lorenzo-Vera (6)
Tiger’s drive on 18 leaks left, and his second ends short of the elevated green. He chips up to 15 feet, but he’s left with a tricky dribbler for his par. But in it goes, and he stops just short of launching into a leap and a heel-click as he jauntily skips after it. He hits the turn in 34, one under par. His partner McIlroy meanwhile makes another birdie, easy as you like with barely any drama at all, and his latest slow start to a major has been arrested nicely. He turns in 35, level par. He looked in all sorts of mental trouble an hour ago, but now he’s high on life. The third member of the group, Justin Thomas, pars and remains -1.
Dustin Johnson misses a par tiddler on 18. His playing partner Justin Rose bounces back with birdie, though, the reward for a lovely approach to 12 feet. Both hit the turn in 33 strokes, -2, but one man looks far happier than the other.
The 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett is living a bit of a nightmare right now. A birdie at 12 … but bogeys at 10, 11, 15, 18, 1 and now 3, and he’s +5. Mind you, that’s one shot better off than another major champion, the 2002 PGA winner Rich Beem, who has just reached the turn in 41 strokes. He’s +6.
Koepka turns in 32 after rolling in a 20-footer for birdie on 18. This is so impressive after that false start with bogey at 11. He joins the group at -3, which now includes Finau after back-to-back birdies at 1 and 2. And an eagle for Alex Noren, who chips in at the short par-four 7th from 45 yards.
-4: Scheffler (12*), Z Johnson (10*), Noren (7)
-3: Finau (12*), Day (11*), Koepka (9*), D Johnson (8*), Wiesberger (7), Lorenzo-Vera (5)
Rory bounces back by screeching his second at the short par-four 16th to four feet, and making the birdie putt. He’s +1 and there’s a slight spring in his step again as he makes off to the next tee. Meanwhile a dismal three-putt for Justin Rose on the par-three 17th, and he’s far from happy, gesticulating in anger at some squeak from the sidelines. No crowd to blame, of course; to be honest, it was a poor pull from four feet. He’s -1.
Another birdie for Scottie Scheffler, this time at 3, gives the 24-year-old from New Jersey a share of the lead again. Jason Day birdies 1 to remain in hot pursuit, but Bud Cauley and Alex Noren drop strokes at 8 and 6 respectively to slip back to -2.
-4: Scheffler (12*), Z Johnson (8*)
-3: Day (10*), D Johnson (7*)
Justin Rose rakes in a 40-footer across 16 to move to -2. Dustin Johnson stays one ahead of him by guiding in a 15-foot left-to-right slider on 16; he’s -3. And Tom Lewis – who came very close last week at the WGC St Jude, shooting 61-66 over a brilliant weekend – opens with birdie at 1. Lewis shot 65 on the first day of the 2011 Open at Sandwich as an amateur. His professional career has taken a while to get going, but the 29-year-old from Welwyn Garden City is beginning to make his mark now. He’s a very decent outside bet to become England’s first winner since 1919 (!).
Another birdie for Koepka, who gets fazed by very little other than slow play. Good on the big man, it’s the scourge of the game. Anyway, this one comes at the short par-four 16th; he’s positioned nicely at -2 alongside another former champion moving in the right direction after a bang-average start. Martin Kaymer, who pipped Bubba Watson in the 2010 play off, has more than cancelled out a bogey at 11 with birdies at 14, 17 and now 1.
More misery for McIlroy, who has now made it three bogeys in a row, at 14. This one is the result of flaying his tee shot into thick oomska and being forced to take a drop. He’s +2. Meanwhile Tiger walks after a short par putt on 14 … but it lips out on the right and that’s his first dropped stroke of the morning. He’s -1. And at the top, the 2007 Masters and 2015 Open champ Zach Johnson takes over, with his fourth birdie already, at the short and inviting par-four 16th. The big bombers have a history of doing well at Harding Park … but it’s a tree-lined course that rewards accuracy, too, and the shorter-hitting Johnson may fancy his chances here.
-4: Z Johnson (8*)
-3: Scheffler (11*), Cauley (7), Noren (5)
It’s a four-way tie at the top now, with Bud Cauley, Zach Johnson and Alex Noren joining Scottie Scheffler at -3. Noren, approaching veteran status at 38, has a couple of top-ten finishes to his name at the Open, but has done very little in the Stateside majors. His best result in the USA is a 10th-place finish at the 2017 Players, but ten European Tour wins to zero on the PGA Tour tell its own story. Still, Sweden has come close at the PGA before – Henrik Stenson and Jonas Blixt finished third and fourth the year Jason Dufner won (2013) – and there’s no reason Noren can’t make a serious impression this week too.
-3: Scheffler (10*), Cauley (7), Z Johnson (7), Noren (5)
-2: Harman (10), Day (9*), D Johnson (5*), Wiesberger (5), Woods (4*), Fitzpatrick (4*)
You can’t keep a good four-time major champion down. Brooks Koepka has bounced back from his slow start with back-to-back birdies at 13 and 14. The defending champ rises to -1, and all that early stress evaporates into the ether. Sadly, Rory McIlroy’s round is heading in the other direction. He’s followed that opening birdie at 10 with dropped shots at 12 and 13. He’s +1 and searching in vain for his A-game right now.
Scrub that! Several of those lurkers at -1 make birdie – four of them are major winners – while Scheffler turns in 33, then birdies the gentle opening hole. Suddenly it’s all change at the top during the early stages of this championship! Already it looks as though this could be one humdinger of a tournament.
-3: Scheffler (10*)
-2: Day (8), Cauley (6), Z Johnson (6*), D Johnson (5*), Noren (4), Woods (4)
Back-to-back bogeys for Daniel Berger, though, at 14 and 15. The former co-leader slips back to where he started the day. Just the 22 players at -1 now. Again: no.
-2: Scheffler (9*), Cauley (5), D Johnson (4*)
Bud Cauley, a 30-year-old from Daytona Beach in Florida, has no record to speak of in the majors, and no PGA Tour wins to his name. A journeyman. Then again, some players develop later than others, and he’s already had a couple of top-ten finishes on Tour this season. It’s not as though relative unknowns come bursting from the pack to snatch the Wanamaker Trophy, either; just ask Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel or John Daly. It’s probably a little early for Cauley to start dreaming … but then again, if you’ve just birdied 1, 4 and 5, more than offsetting a bogey at 2, why not? He’s -2 through 5.
It’s nearly ten years since Dustin Johnson infamously grounded his club in a dusty patch to the right of the 72nd hole of the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. Assuming it wasn’t a bunker, and going on to make bogey, he thought he’d made a play-off with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson. But he’d not read the local rules, and it was. A monumentally confused Johnson was handed a two-shot penalty and ended the week tied for fifth. He’s come close on a few occasions since, most notably last year when he nearly snatched the prize from the hands of a nervous Brooks Koepka. His eventual second-place finish stands as his best at the PGA. Can the 2016 US Open winner go one better this week? Well, he’s started very nicely indeed. Birdies at 10 and 12, and he joins the leaders at -2.
Spieth does indeed drop another shot at 12, punishment for that errant drive. The long par-four is usually a par-five for everyday punters, who can rock up and play for 50 bucks if they live in the city and its environs. Get out of position from the tee and you’re in all sorts of bother, especially as there’s out of bounds running down the left. Even so, Spieth gave himself a chance to scramble par by wedging his third to nine feet, but the putt didn’t drop. He barely missed a thing in 2015, when golf looked so easy for him. But golf always wins. He’s +2 through three holes.
Some more big names out of the blocks with quickfire birdies! Here come Zach Johnson, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Louis Oosthuizen and … Tiger Woods. Just the 25 major titles between that lot. They’re all at -1 early doors, just 71 holes away from making it 26.
Daniel Berger, by comparison, certainly was expected to feature heavily this week. He’s been bang in form since the restart, with victory at the Charles Schwab Challenge, a tie for third at the RBC Heritage, and a tie for second last week at the WGC St Jude, at which he posted a fine final-day 65. He’d had three top-ten finishes in a row just before the enforced break, too. Long tipped as a major-winner in waiting, could this be his time? Well, he’s started out in the grand fashion, with birdies at 10 and now 13. He joine Scheffler at the top, one shot ahead of 19 players at -1. (That’s a polite way of saying no, I’m not listing them.)
-2: Scheffler (8*), Berger (4*)
Following behind, Jordan Spieth, looking to complete his career slam at the ripe old age of 27. He’s not started particularly brightly either, missing a ten-footer on 10 for birdie, then failing to get up and down from the side of the 11th to save par. There wasn’t a great deal of expectation surrounding Spieth this week, his long game having been off for a good while now, and the early signs certainly don’t encourage an instant root-and-branch reassessment, especially as he’s just driven into rough down the right of the long par-four 12th. Then again, Tiger shot 40 on the front nine at Augusta back in 1997, before breaking all sorts of records en route to victory, so the young Texan won’t be pressing the panic button quite yet.
Here comes the defending champion Brooks Koepka, looking to lift the Wanamaker Trophy for the third consecutive time. Good thing he’s got all those muscles, because that is one oversized pot. Not the ideal start, though. He pulled his opening drive, at the makeable par-five 10th, into rough down the left. Not so makeable after all. A par on a hole that’s already been giving up its fair share of birdies. Then he was unable to get up and down from greenside rough at the par-three 11th, and the four-time major winner is off to a very average start. He’s one over through two.
The two early leaders have moved back towards the pack. Bogey for Scheffler at 14; a dropped shot for Finau at 13. They slip back to -2 and -1 respectively. Meanwhile more fast starts from a couple of likely lads: the reigning US Open champ Gary Woodland and new sensation Collin Morikawa, who won the Workday Charity Open, an emergency replacement for the John Deere Classic, only last month.
We had, rather naively we’ll admit, assumed Sky would be showing the morning’s featured groups, as usual, ahead of the full live coverage beginning later. Nope! There goes our hopes of following Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose, and Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas in great detail. No doubt a knock-on effect of subscription channel ESPN+ snaffling the rights in the States. They don’t half make some weird decisions, the PGA of America. Hey kids, anyone remember
Some solid starts by a few of the pre-tournament fancies. Jason Day, Daniel Berger, Xander Schauffele, Tyrrell Hatton have all launched their bids with birdies. Stuttering starts by a couple of former champions, though, as Rich Beem (2002), Martin Kaymer (2010) and Jason Dufner (2013) open with bogeys.
Scottie Scheffler also enjoyed that miserable Thursday at Oakmont. When the klaxon went to suspend play, he was the clubhouse leader having shot 69. Not half bad around a notoriously difficult track, but doubly impressive seeing he was a 19-year-old amateur at the time. (Never mind that he shot 78 in the second round and missed the cut by a stroke; giving it another go the following year, he finished as low amateur at Erin Hills.) Anyway, he’s flown out of the blocks this morning, with birdie at the makeable par-five 10th, another at the par-three 11th, and a third at the par-four 13th. He’s three under through four holes, but only one ahead, because Tony Finau, third at the Open and tied fifth at Augusta last year, has opened with back-to-back birdies at 10 and 11 as well. Hotting up already, and we’re only an hour or so in. Welcome back, major championship golf! God we’ve missed you.
-3: Scheffler (4*)
-2: Finau (2*)
No opening hole at a major is ever truly gentle, of course. The old nerves will be clattering away, for a start. Regarding this subject, the first bogey of the 2020 PGA Championship was made by Andrew Landry, the 32-year-old Texan unable to make a sandy save on 1. You may recall Landry leading the 2016 US Open after the first round, shooting a rain-disrupted 66 on Thursday and Friday at Oakmont. Plenty of time to turn it all around and relive past glories.
So we begin our coverage with news of the first birdie in a men’s major since Shane Lowry wedged to ten feet on 15 at Portrush, stroked in the putt, then fist-pumped the air, knowing the job was done. It’s made by CT Pan, the 28-year-old Taiwanese whose best finish at this championship is a missed cut last year. He sent his second at Harding Park’s gentle opening hole to six feet from 130 yards. In went the putt, and Pan became the first player to top the leaderboard at the 2020 PGA, albeit as a member of the very first group out. Still, if you’ve led a major, you’ve lead a major.
The 2020 PGA Championship is go!
Major championship golf is back, baby! It seems an eternity since Hinako Shibuno sensationally won the Women’s British Open at Woburn; one year and two days to be precise. Under normal circumstances, Shane Lowry would have defended his Open title three weeks ago at Sandwich, wrapping up the 2020 major season for the men. But these are far from normal circumstances, and here we are, starting it up right now, four months late, with a tournament for so long known as Glory’s Last Shot. A world turned upside down, huh.
It’s been long enough that we may need to remind ourselves of the 2019 winners in the men’s majors. Here’s the roll of honour …
- Masters Tournament: Tiger Woods
- PGA Championship: Brooks Koepka
- US Open: Gary Woodland
- Open Championship: Shane Lowry
Koepka is looking to become only the second player to win the PGA three times in a row, having held off a resurgent Tiger Woods at Bellerive in 2018, then resisted a Dustin Johnson charge – and his own demons, an unprecedented collapse momentarily looking likely – at Bethpage Black last May. Walter Hagen is the only other man to pull off a three-peat in this tournament; in fact he managed four on the spin during the 1920s, when the PGA was a matchplay event. Given how close Koepka came last weekend at the WGC St Jude, there’d be no huge surprise if he pulled this one off. If he does, he’d be the first man to win three in a row at any major since Peter Thomson won his third Open in 1956.
Koepka is one of many stellar names with huge hopes of prevailing at Harding Park. Justin Thomas, the new world number one, coming off a win at the WGC St Jude. Tiger Woods, looking for number 16 on a course he’s long enjoyed playing. Jordan Spieth, looking to complete a career grand slam. Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger, Tony Finau, Patrick Cantlay and Colin Morikawa, looking to make their major breakthrough. Tyrrell Hatton and Matthew Fitzpatrick, looking to become the first English winner since 1919. Rory McIlroy, looking to end a six-year major drought. Webb Simpson, Jason Day, Michael Thompson and Phil Mickelson, looking to continue their recent resurgence. Big Dustin! Rickie! Phil! Shane! Gary! An outsider in the Beem-Micheel tradition!
We could go on. We won’t go on.
Of course the public can’t come in – ironically so, given Harding Park, just outside San Francisco, is a municipal – but a television audience is in for some real theatre nonetheless. It’s the first major of the 2020 season! It’ll be historic in all sorts of ways! It’s on!
Here are the first-round tee times …
(USA unless stated; times all local, add eight hours for UK time)
Starting at hole 1 …
0700 Jeff Hart, Brian Harman, Cheng-Tsung Pan (Tai)
0711 Andrew Landry, Rod Perry, Nate Lashley
0722 Sung Kang (Kor), John O’Leary (Irl), Dylan Frittelli (Rsa)
0733 Russell Henley, Erik Van Rooyen (Rsa), Carlos Ortiz (Mex)
0744 Ryan Palmer, Kevin Kisner, Michael Thompson
0755 Lucas Glover, Bud Cauley, Tyrrell Hatton (Eng)
0806 Rich Beem, Alex Beach, Shaun Micheel
0817 Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spa), Ryo Ishikawa (Jpn), Jason Kokrak
0828 Danny Lee (Nzl), Bernd Wiesberger (Aut), Vaughn Taylor
0839 Keith Mitchell, Matthias Schwab (Aut), Brendan Steele
0850 Joel Dahmen, Luke List, Victor Perez (Fra)
0901 Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), Marty Jertson, Tom Lewis (Eng)
0912 David Muttitt, Mackenzie Hughes (Can), Harris English
1230 JR Roth, Tyler Duncan, Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa)
1241 Lanto Griffin, Rich Berberian Jr., Joost Luiten (Ned)
1252 Jim Herman, Rob Labritz, Shaun Norris (Rsa)
1303 Brandt Snedeker, Adam Hadwin (Can), Xinjun Zhang (Chn)
1314 Kevin Na, Patrick Reed, Robert Macintyre (Sco)
1325 Bubba Watson, Matthew Wolff, Graeme McDowell (NIrl)
1336 Viktor Hovland (Nor), Tommy Fleetwood (Eng), Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn)
1347 Rickie Fowler, Bryson DeChambeau, Adam Scott (Aus)
1358 Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm (Spa), Sergio Garcia (Spa)
1409 Paul Casey (Eng), Ian Poulter (Eng), Webb Simpson
1420 Matt Wallace (Eng), Matt Kuchar, Marc Leishman (Aus)
1431 Sepp Straka (Aut), Ryan Vermeer, Si Woo Kim (Kor)
1442 Justin Bertsch, Sebastian Munoz (Col), Benjamin Hebert (Fra)
… and starting at hole 10 …
0705 Daniel Balin, Scottie Scheffler, Tom Hoge
0716 Mike Auterson, Rory Sabbatini (Svk), Nick Taylor (Can)
0727 Tony Finau, Danny Willett (Eng), Patrick Cantlay
0738 Jason Dufner, Martin Kaymer (Ger), Jason Day (Aus)
0749 Daniel Berger, Xander Schauffele, Steve Stricker
0800 Collin Morikawa, Henrik Stenson (Swe), Zach Johnson
0811 Gary Woodland, Brooks Koepka, Shane Lowry (Irl)
0822 Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose (Eng)
0833 Rory McIlroy (NIrl), Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas
0844 Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Max Homa, Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng)
0855 Abraham Ancer (Mex), Charl Schwartzel (Rsa), Joohyung Kim (Kor)
0906 Corey Conners (Can), Zachary J Johnson, Chez Reavie
0917 Alex Knoll, Scott Piercy, Andrew Putnam
1225 Kurt Kitayama, Bob Sowards, Richy Werenski
1236 Haotong Li (Chn), Ben Cook, Jorge Campillo (Spa)
1247 Talor Gooch, Byeong-Hun An (Kor), Sungjae Im (Kor)
1258 JT Poston, Joaquin Niemann (Chi), Harold Varner III
1309 Ken Tanigawa, Emiliano Grillo (Arg), Cameron Tringale
1320 Brian Stuard, Jim Furyk, Billy Horschel
1331 Matt Jones (Aus), Jazz Janewattananond (Tha), Kevin Streelman
1342 Davis Love III, Jimmy Walker, Keegan Bradley
1353 Cameron Smith (Aus), Denny McCarthy, Cameron Champ
1404 Wyndham Clark, Troy Merritt, Chan Kim
1415 Doc Redman, Jason Caron, Brendon Todd
1426 Jordan Gibb (Eng), Lucas Herbert (Aus), Mark Hubbard
1437 Shawn Warren, Marcus Kinhult (Swe), Adam Long