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Round 1 Recap: Stars and surprises
The first round didn't finish on Thursday, but what did take place kept the day pretty interesting. Two international guys have the clubhouse lead -- both of whom have bigger names in Europe than they do here -- but don't let that keep you from paying attention. Robert Karlsson and Jeev Milkha Singh have control at 2 under.
By T.J. Auclair, PGA.COM Interactive Producer
BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- If ever there was such thing as a monster in disguise, Oakland Hills Country Club is it.
Typically when you think "monster," doesn't it conjure up the thought of something nasty looking? Something scary? Something ghoulish? A beast, right?
The pristine rolling grounds of immaculate Oakland Hills appear to be none of the above on the surface
-- hence the disguise.
And the nickname, "The Monster."
Players had a devil of a time in Thursday's weather-shortened opening round of the 90th PGA Championship. Sixteen of Oakland Hills' 18 holes played over par, for crying out loud. Four of those holes -- Nos. 1, 6, 16 and 18 -- featured 10 or more scores of double bogey or worse. The boogieman was the bogeyman on Thursday.
But not for everyone.
Both Robert Karlsson and the Singh that didn't win last week at Firestone -- Jeev Milkha -- played near-flawless golf. With matching 2-under-par 68s, the duo that spends most of their time on the European Tour were the surprise leaders on day one.
Argentina's Andres Romero was also at 2 under but still had two holes left to play when the round was suspended due to darkness at 8:40 p.m. with 18 players left on the course.
Karlsson's 68 was of particular splendor. The towering Swede got kicked in the shins at the first hole, where he suffered a double bogey. Rather than get frustrated, he sucked it up. Quite well, we might add.
Instead of letting the round get away, all Karlsson did was rattle off an unthinkable five birdies in six holes. He went from 2 over after his first hole to 3 under after his first nine. With a birdie and two bogeys on the back, Karlsson happily signed for what would be one of just six sub-par rounds on Friday.
"A little bit too interesting, I think," Karlsson said about his round. "On the first hole there, just stupid and got a bad break. It bounced on the back edge of the green and hit a cart path and ended up over the back and that was not the place to be."
Ken Duke, Sergio Garcia, Billy Mayfair and Sean O'Hair were bunched in a group at 1 under, just one off the lead, while Anthony Kim, Angel Cabrera and Phil Mickelson were among the notables at even par.
"I'm just happy to have shot even par today," said Mickelson, who won the PGA Championship at Baltusrol in 2005. "I think that after the start, bogeying the first two holes, I thought it was pretty good to hang in there, fight and make some birdies, because there were a lot of holes that were tough to get to. And yet, if you were patient, there were some pin placements you could get to."
Kenny Perry, a three-time winner on the PGA TOUR in 2008, was forced to withdraw after a first-round 9-over 79 due to an eye injury. It was Perry's only major appearance this season, as he was ineligible for the Masters, decided not to try to qualify for the U.S. Open and took a pass on the British Open.
|6||The number of players who completed the first round on Thursday and posted a score under par.|
|17||As in the number of strokes over par, an 87, shot on Thursday by PGA Professional Eric Dugas, who is playing in his first PGA Championship.|
|12||The number of double bogeys made on the par-4 18th|
Thursday. No. 18 played as the hardest hole on the course.
Singh bogeyed the first hole, but righted the ship quickly at the par-5 second hole with an eagle.
"Just kept plugging away and made a lot of up and downs, and I think that my putting helped me quite a bit today," Singh said. "My short game was sharp. Didn't drive the ball that good, but any time you shoot under par in a major championship, I think you got to take it and put it deep down in your pocket, and I've done that today."
While Karlsson might seem like a surprise co-leader to some, it should be noted that he is the only player in the field to record a top-10 finish in each of the first three majors (tie for eighth at the Masters; tie for fourth at the U.S. Open; tie for seventh at the British Open).
"It's things that I've been working on, on how I feel on the golf course, and they're starting to feel very comfortable," Karlsson said. "I'm comfortable in playing the big events, and before I had a bit of a problem, I tried too hard playing the big events and I sort of pushed it too much. So I always made a lot of mistakes. But this year both the swing is better, but definitely feel a lot calmer, more and more sort of content with life in general, I would say."
The only reprieve came for those players in the afternoon wave. Dangerous weather moved into the area around 5:30 p.m. and suspended play for an hour and a half, dropping a little bit of rain on the course, but not enough to soften it up and make it any easier.
The 18 players, including Romero, who have yet to complete their first round will resume at 8 a.m. on Friday.
Perhaps they can sneak up on the monster while it's resting. Then again, it's all the players will be thinking about when they try to rest up on Thursday night.
|SHOT OF THE DAY||ROUND OF THE DAY|
|Reigning British Open Champion Padraig Harrington showed off his major worthiness on the opening holes. The affable Irishman birdied the first, the second and then came within inches of an ace, hitting the pin, to birdie the par-3 third.||Robert Karlsson wasn't the only player to finish at 2 under, but he was the only one to do it after a double bogey on No. 1. The Swede didn't let it faze him, though. He carded no less than six birdies to recover (before two more bogeys on the back).|
|What the leaders said...|
|Robert Karlsson||T1||2 under||"Three rounds to go, I mean, you could be 8 over in a hurry. In these tournaments, it's really, really important just to keep going. I've had good rounds before and finished badly, so it's so important to learn from your mistakes and just keep going. I mean, if you just hit a few wayward shots, you can make bogey."|
|Jeev Milkha Singh||T1||2 under||"I think that the most important thing to learn on a major championship is to stay patient. Because they are going to test your patience because the pin positions, you're going to get some bad breaks, you're going to hit some shots in the rough, and you sometimes you can't get it out, sometimes you can. I think the key is to stay patient. You've got to, if you hit a bad shot, you've got|
to take your medicine."
|Sergio Garcia||T4||1 under||"Obviously, the round was good. There were a couple of tee shots here and there that I wasn't 100 percent and I felt good, and obviously they weren't very good. But I scrambled nicely. I putted good. I chipped good. I hit a lot of good shots into the greens -- and you know, 1-under par on this course, I'm thrilled with it."|
READ FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTS: Robert Karlsson | Jeev Milkha Singh | Paul Casey | Lee Westwood | Scott Hebert | Full archive
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"You can't give away shots around here, because it's so difficult to pick them up. Unless you're Robert Karlsson." -- England's Paul Casey on how Sweden's best golfer successfully navigated the tough first round despite a double bogey at the first.
England's Lee Westwood didn't start off the way he had hoped in the first round of the 90th PGA Championship.
Westwood had high expectations coming in after a third-place finish at the U.S. Open and a tie for second at last week's World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. On Thursday, however, the Englishman struggled to the tune of a 7-over-par 77, which actually could have been a lot worse.
"I was happy to break 80 after being 7 over after 12 holes," he said. "Standing on the 17th tee, I asked my caddie if he could hear the sea as well, as I am sure I could hear my holiday calling. But I dug in there."
Westwood didn't record a single birdie in the first round but had five bogeys to go along with one double bogey (No. 16).
"I shot 77, and I wasn't that far off line," he said. "I made a mess of 16, and my short game wasn't as sharp as it could be, but the grass around the greens doesn't allow your short game to be sharp. There is too much just getting the right lie. And the flags are on such tight margins. I had a chip on 14, and my 8 iron was a yard from being stone dead, and then I had a chip shot I can't get close and left it short. It is a severe test out there."
Westwood is one of several Europeans looking to break a curse at the PGA Championship this week. No European has won the tournament since Tommy Armour came out on top in 1930.
NOT BAD AT ALL
Sean O'Hair, a two-time winner on the PGA TOUR and just 26 years old, opened the 90th PGA Championship with a brilliant 1-under 69 that included three birdies and just two bogeys.
O'Hair had been in a slump of sorts until just recently when he switched to new swing coach, Sean Foley. Foley tweaked O'Hair's swing, and in his first start after the change, O'Hair tied for third at the RBC Canadian Open. He followed that with a respectable tie for 12th last week at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
With momentum on his side, O'Hair came to Oakland Hills for the PGA Championship, which -- believe it or not -- was a comfortable place for him. Typically, you don't hear about players being comfortable on a major championship course, but O'Hair was. He played in a British Open qualifier at Oakland Hills last year and the knowledge he gained then helped him on Thursday.
"I learned how hard it was," O'Hair said. "It wasn't as fast as this, but the rough was a lot thicker and a lot deeper than this. The pins were ridiculously hard. It's just one of those courses where you know you have to hit fairways, and you know you have to hit greens; and you know, it's just one of those old school, challenging golf courses where once you're on the green, it doesn't mean that it's over. You still have kind of a roller coaster on the greens."
So don't get too comfortable then, right?
"I find it pretty easy to let this golf course intimidate you," O'Hair said. "The first time I played it was the first time I saw it, and I played fairly well. I tripled my first hole, but I played fairly well, and I just think, you know, this is one of those courses where you kind of look at it, it's visually intimidating. The fairways are slopey, the fairways are tight, the greens are firm, the greens are slopey, but it's still golf. If you hit it in the right spots, you should be fine. Yeah, I think it helped me out."
Oakland Hills Country Club has hosted several major golf events through the years. Here's a look at the year, event and champions:
|1924||U.S. Open||Cyril Walker|
|1937||U.S. Open||Ralph Guldahl|
|1951||U.S. Open||Ben Hogan|
|1961||U.S. Open||Gene Littler|
|1972||PGA Championship||Gary Player|
|1979||PGA Championship||David Graham|
|1981||U.S. Senior Open||Arnold Palmer|
|1985||U.S. Open||Andy North|
|1991||U.S. Senior Open||Jack Nicklaus|
|1996||U.S. Open||Steve Jones|
|2002||U.S. Amateur||Ricky Barnes|
|2004||Ryder Cup Matches||Europe|
THREE THINGS TO LOOK FOR ON FRIDAY...
1. Camilo Villegas stepping it up. He's got to be more than a little disappointed about his 4-over 74 start. He shot 3 over on the front nine -- his back. It was a funky nine that included an eagle, one birdie, four bogeys and a double bogey. Expect more from Villegas on Friday as he tees it up again with Anthony Kim and his best friend on TOUR, Sergio Garcia.
2. The early first-round leaders hanging around. Just because Robert Karlsson and Jeev Milkha Singh aren't household names in the U.S.A. doesn't mean they're not big-time players. Karlsson, in fact, is the only player in 2008 with top-10 finishes in each of the first three majors that have been played. Both players have won several times in Europe. Don't expect them to fade away.
3. A score of even par will make up ground. Par is your friend at the majors. In recent years, that hasn't necessarily been the case at the PGA Championship. In fact, the last time a player won the PGA Championship at even-par or worse, was back in 1976 at Congressional when Dave Stockton won at 1 over. Anyone who shoots even par on Friday should soar up the leaderboad.