By T.J. Auclair, Junior Editor
MEDINAH, Ill. -- For 17 holes in the first round of the 88th PGA Championship at Medinah Country Club, 1997 champion Davis Love III was absolutely, unequivocally dialed in.
All it takes is one bad hole to ruin a round. Just ask Love.
Playing the par-3 17th hole with a one-shot lead at 7 under par, Love hit his tee shot right of the green and into a terrible lie in the rough. Once he set to play his second shot, Love pretty much whiffed the ball as it didn't advance an inch, his club sliding under the ball in the gnarly grass. On his third shot, Love caught a club-full of rough before making contact with the ball and found the greenside bunker. A sand shot and two putts later, he had a triple-bogey 6 and dropped from 7 under par to 4 under par and two shots behind first-round co-leaders Lucas Glover and Chris Riley.
"I just went right under it," Love said, explaining the costly miscue on 17. "It was teed up in the rough and I thought maybe I could flip it into the fringe and have it not go all the way across the green into the lake, and I just went right under it. Then you've got the same shot from a worse lie.
"I was taking a chance, trying to put it in the fringe and let it bounce onto the green somewhere because if I flew it halfway in the middle of the green it's in the lake. That's always the danger on a hole like that. If you leave it short, you're in the lake. If you hit it way over, now you've got another chance to hit it in the lake, and that's the position I was in."
A win at Medinah would be huge for Love. Aside from the fact that it would be his second major victory, it would also lock up a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Love has been a member of six Ryder Cup squads. Ironically, the only time over that period where he hasn't been among the top 10 heading into the PGA was 1997, when he won this event under a rainbow at Winged Foot. Love will be hoping for a repeat of that feat, as he currently stands at No. 15 on the U.S. Points Lists list.
"I'm trying to block it out," said Love, alluding to the Ryder Cup. "Obviously this one tournament is as important as anything I'm doing right now. If I play well here and give myself a chance to win, the rest of it will take care of itself."
While it's a fact that Medinah Country Club, site of the 88th PGA Championship, is the longest course in major championship history at 7,561 yards, there was certainly no shortage of low scores in the first round Thursday.
The 26-year-old Glover had the early lead after carding a 6-under-par 66 in the morning. That mark was one shot better than Billy Andrade, who got into the PGA as the seventh alternate and had a bogey-free 67 Thursday.
Stewart Cink, Robert Allenby, Luke Donald, Henrik Stenson, Love and J.J. Henry all posted 4-under-par rounds of 68 and were two back after the first 18 holes.
Glover, still vying to make his first cut in a major championship, had two bogeys to go along with eight birdies.
"It was just a good opener, I guess," Glover said. "I was real solid, a couple bad tee shots led to two bogeys, but made all my short ones and made a couple long ones for birdie. So eight birdies, two bogeys, you can't ask for any more than that out here, that's for sure."
Riley's round came pretty much out of nowhere. His best finish on the PGA Tour in 2006 was a mediocre T17 at the Bank of America Colonial. On Thursday, the 32-year-old was brilliant, carding seven birdies and just one bogey.
"Actually the last three or four tournaments on Tour, I've been playing really well, just not getting anything out of it," Riley said. "Prior to that, the last year, I really haven't given myself a legitimate shot to play well because I really haven't played enough golf out here. For me, I need to play five out of six weeks at a time, six out of eight weeks at a time, seven out of nine weeks, and I really haven't had a pattern.
"We have two little kids and I really haven't wanted to travel much," he added. "You know, I'm just kind of going through the motions the last year. My back's up against the wall now and it's time to play golf, and I'm fine with that. My attitude's a lot better. I mean, I'm just like I was in 2004 right now the last couple of months. Nothing bothers me and I know I hit the ball well enough so if I make a bogey, I'm going to have a lot of birdie chances."
In the morning, all eyes were on the glamour group of Masters winner and reigning PGA Champion Phil Mickelson, U.S. Open winner Geoff Ogilvy and British Open victor Tiger Woods.
Playing before enormous crowds that were 10-deep in spots along the back nine, the trio all matched each other with rounds of 3-under-par 69.
"I thought I played pretty good today," Woods said. "I hit the ball pretty solid all day and I had good speed on the greens. I missed a couple over the edge but also made a couple which was nice. Overall it was just a grind them out kind of round. Nothing really exciting, just kind of grind it out."
Ogilvy's scorecard was the most colorful in the group, as he made seven birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey. The double came at the par-4 16th. The 29-year-old Aussie sent his tee shot with a long iron that he lost deep into the trees in the left rough. He was forced to punch out, but his ball scooted across the fairway and into the rough. His third shot fell short of the green, he chipped to 10 feet, missed the putt and carded the deflating double-bogey.
Mickelson was a scrambling fool throughout the round, putting his short-game magic to work on a number of occasions to save pars that looked like certain bogeys. On Nos. 14, 16, 17, 18, 3 and 4 Mickelson managed to get up and down for par with chips, pitches and flop shots.
"Fortunately I put it in the right spot and gave myself enough green to work with and didn't short-side myself and was able to get up and down," he said. "That was a big factor."
Playing the back nine first, Mickelson, Woods and Ogilvy started at 8:30 a.m. CT. No. 10 is the furthest hole from the clubhouse at Medinah and Mickelson was surprised at the lack of a crowd when he teed off, even though the right side of the fairway and behind the green were completely lined and several people deep.
"It was 8:30 in the morning and it was a long ways away," he said. "There was nobody out there. It was a nice, quiet day. When we made the turn it was a little louder."
Woods agreed with Mickelson's assessment.
"It didn't feel like Sunday afternoon," he said. "I guess maybe because we were so far out there on the golf course nobody knew where we were. You know, hey, the crowds were more energetic towards the end. I think they were just getting out here. The 10th hole is not exactly easy to find out there. As we played along, the galleries got a little more enthusiastic and a lot bigger."
Ogilvy was the odd-man out, obviously, as he played alongside the world's No. 1 and No. 2 ranked players, respectively. However, the U.S. Open winner more than held his own, holing two long birdie putts at Nos. 18 and 1.
"I got the best seat in the house, so it was fun," he said. "Crazy, I guess you would say -- early it was quite crazy. Quite dignified inside the ropes but quite crazy outside the ropes I'm sure. And we all played quite well. I mean, I started well and then fell in a hole and then played really well on the back nine. And Tiger played pretty consistent the whole time and Phil played pretty well the whole time, too, so it was good fun."
In other action, Olin Browne recorded the first hole-in-one of tournament when he aced the 197-yard par-3 17th -- his seventh hole of the day -- to get to 2 over for the championship. It was Browne's third ace in Tour competition and second in a major. He also had a hole-in-one at the 2001 U.S. Open Southern Hills.
Throughout the morning the weather was perfect at Medinah with an abundance of sunshine. However, shortly after Woods, Mickelson and Ogivly finished out the clouds rolled in and a light rain drizzled down later in the day.
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