Team America sets early tone
Sure, Europe’s Justin Rose shot 4 under on Thursday to share the lead at the Tour Championship, and Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy slipped into the top 12 at 1 under, but Team America put on a show.
Tiger Woods also shot 4 under to lead while Steve Stricker and Matt Kuchar finished the day a shot back at 3 under. Not only did Stricker and Kuchar play well, perhaps more importantly to Captain Love, they putted great. Kuchar said afterward, “It was a fantastic putting performance. I didn’t hit it my best, but thankfully my short game was great, and putting, in particular, was really strong.”
Brandt Snedeker also putted like a fiend to shoot 2 under, while Phil Mickelson hit some of the best iron shots of his life en route to shooting 1 under. “I’m hitting my irons really, really well,” Phil told me behind the East Lake clubhouse after Thursday’s round. “I only hit one bad putt all day, but I misread a lot of them. Hopefully I can get that corrected, because I’m hitting them on the line I want.”
Zach Johnson finished the day birdie-birdie to shoot 2 under, while Bubba Watson shot 33 on the back nine to get in at minus-1 along with Jim Furyk and Dustin Johnson.
The only American Ryder Cupper to shoot over par on Thursday was Webb Simpson. But Simpson had five birdies in his 1-over round.
Again, it’s a long week and an even longer time until the first shot of the matches. But if being hot matters going in, the Americans have to like what they see.
PGA of America Championships
Benton Harbor, Mich.
Sahalee Country Club
Baltusrol Golf Club
Hazeltine National Golf Club