The season’s fourth major – the US PGA Championship – is underway at Whistling Straits, overlooking Lake Michigan. Here’s 6 things we have learned from the opening round….
*Determined Dustin. Big-hitting American Dustin Johnson is clearly desperate to make amends for his last Whistling Straits outing which saw him pick up a two-stroke penalty with US PGA victory in his sights five years ago. DJ took full advantage of the favourable early conditions by firing a 1st round 66 (-6) and as a result has now led, or jointly led, the last three majors. After his flying start he admitted he had to be extremely patient and more of the same will surely see DJ land his long-awaited first major. But with his past majors weekend record, it’s a big IF….
*Stirring comeback. Victorious Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley reckons Rory McIlroy can win this week even if it is his first tournament back since being sidelined for several weeks with an injured ankle: and after his gritty opening round 71 (-1) you wouldn’t put it past him. The world no.1 opened with a bogey but pulled out all the stops despite playing in the most difficult of opening round conditions. In some ways it was the ideal start for McIlroy who matched the performance of big rival, playing partner Jordan Spieth despite being somewhat ‘ring rusty.’ He’s just five shots off the lead and, as always, a major threat…
*Lefty at Large. You can never rule four-times major winner Phil Mickelson out. ‘Lefty’ was all over the Whistling Straits course – he even found places the head greenkeeper never knew existed – but somehow miraculously finished level par. That’s what happens when you’ve got a clinically precise short game, the ability to scramble Seve-style and the golden touch around the greens.
*Day’s time? If it anybody deserves to win this week, it’s got to be gutsy Aussie Jason Day – so near-but-so-far in so many major championships, including the recent Open at St Andrews. The ultra-consistent Day opened his account in style with a -4 score and will hopefully fulfill the old “If you keep banging on the door, it will eventually open” adage. The pain and frustration has got to end sometime and this, finally, could be his time….
*Full of surprises: the season’s final major is renowned for delivering some shock winners down the years – the likes of Y.E. Yang, Rich Beem and Mark Brooks are pasty champions – so could there be another major upset this time? Well, England’s James Morrison (-3) has opened his account in style and will be looking to build on his solid platform and will no doubt be aware that David Lynn finished runner-up in the US PGA two years ago.
*Tiger’s torment. It’s going to be another major-less campaign for 14-time major champion Tiger Woods who made five bogeys to slip nine shots behind frontrunner Johnson. In fact at +3 he faces a struggle to avoid missing his third majors cut in a row. This time Woods blamed his woes on his dismal putting performance, admitting: “I didn’t have the speed at all. It was probably one of the worst putting rounds I’ve had in a very long time.”