Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen and Kevin Kisner are 18-hole co-leaders at the 99th PGA Championship, after both recorded 4-under 67s on Thursday at Quail Hollow Club. Olesen posted his number during the morning wave, while Kisner waited until the afternoon. This is the first time that either player has had the lead, or even a share of it, after any round of a major championship.
Playing in his fifth PGA, Olesen’s 67 on Thursday matched his best PGA Championship round (he also posted a 67 in the final round in 2014 at Valhalla). It was also his lowest opening round in 14 career major championships. Olesen remains in search of his first win since the 2016 Turkish Airlines Open, although he’ll rely on experiences gained during a pair of top-10 finishes in majors: T-6 in the 2013 Masters and T-9 in the 2012 Open Championship.
Aiken, South Carolina’s Kisner made a late-round push to tie Olesen at the top of the leaderboard at the 99th PGA Championship. Birdies at 14, 15 and 18 pulled him even with Olesen. Making his third appearance at the PGA Championship, Kisner’s best finish was in 2016, when he tied for 18th place at Baltusrol.
The 4-under, 67s posted by Olesen and Kisner represent the highest first-round score in relation to par by a leader(s) in the PGA Championship since 2008, when Robert Karlsson and Jeev Milkha Singh carded matching 2-under, 68s to lead at Oakland Hills.
Netherlands’ Joost Luiten recorded a hole-in-one on the 181-yard No. 4 hole Thursday. He used a 6-iron. It was the first ace on the newly-constructed hole, and the first in a PGA Championship since 2013 by Tim Clark (final round). Luiten’s ace was the fifth in a tour event at Quail Hollow Club since 2008. The other four came in the Wells Fargo Championship: Jay Williamson (2008, No. 6); Colt Knost (2015, No. 17); Carlos Ortiz (No. 2016, No. 17); and William McGirt (2016, No. 2, which is now a par-4 hole).
Jim Herman, who once worked as a PGA Professional at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida, raced to the early co-lead at 4-under par after 16 holes. However, the Green Mile showed its teeth, as a par on No. 16 and back-to-back bogeys on No. 17 and 18 resulted in a 2-under-par 69. “I feel like I drove the ball really well. I think that’s a weapon for me here…Probably my best start in any major,” said Herman, who is playing in his second PGA Championship (2016 at Baltusrol).
Perhaps the most grueling stretch in golf, the final three holes at Quail Hollow Club, known as the “Green Mile,” lived up to expectations on Thursday, playing as the three toughest holes. The 223-yard par-3 17th yielded a course-low five birdies during Round 1, while 16 and 18 surrendered six and eight, respectively. Of the 156 players, six played holes 16 through 18 under par: Bud Cauley, Ryan Fox, Kevin Kisner, Chris Moody, Grayson Murray and Chris Stroud.
Last week’s winner at the Barracuda Championship, Chris Stroud continued his hot play with the field’s lone bogey-free round. After earning the final exemption in the 99th PGA Championship field, Stroud birdied 10, 11 and 18 en route to an opening 68, which is his best performance in nine career rounds at the PGA Championship.
In the stroke-play era (1958-present), the leader of the first round of the PGA Championship has gone on to win in 12 of 59 Championships (20.3%), while the second-round leader has captured 24 of 59 (40.6%). The third-round leader has closed the door in 34 of 59 Championships (57.6%). Last year, Jimmy Walker led after every round (he was tied for the lead after 36 holes with Robert Streb) en route to capturing his first PGA Championship.
How big of a first-round hole can you dig? The largest deficit after 18 holes to eventually win a PGA Championship in the stroke-play era is eight strokes, on three occasions. Most recently, Keegan Bradley (71 – T36) came back after being eight strokes behind first-round leader Steve Stricker (63) at Atlanta Athletic Club in 2011. Bradley would go on to defeat Jason Dufner in a three-hole aggregate score playoff. In 1989, the late Payne Stewart’s opening tally of 74 at Kemper Lakes would leave him T-77, but he would eventually rally to clip both Andy Bean and first round co-leader Mike Reid by one stroke. In 1978, John Mahaffey roared back after a first-round 75 (T-66) at Oakmont to ultimately win in a dramatic sudden-death playoff over Jerry Pate and Tom Watson.
Omar Uresti arrived at Quail Hollow Club on a high, still basking in the afterglow of his victory in the 50th PGA Professional Championship in June in Sunriver, Oregon. On Tuesday night, he was a guest at the annual PGA Champions Dinner and sat next to his childhood idol, 1966 Champion Al Geiberger. Those special moments boosted Uresti’s spirits after posting a 3-over-par 74 in Thursday’s opening round of the 99th PGA Championship. Even a double bogey halfway through his round – a pulled approach shot into the creek near the 18th green (his ninth hole) – could not spoil Uresti’s day as he made his second consecutive start in the PGA Championship. His rollercoaster round featured three birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey. Uresti led a 20-member PGA Club Professional contingent, while Matt Dobyns of Glen Head, New York, and Kenny Pigman of Norco, California, each had a 76.