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Woodland chops away to seize PGA lead

August 11, 2018

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ST LOUIS: Tiger Woods hits from the 12th fairway during the first round of the PGA Championship at the Bellerive Country Club on Thursday.—AP
ST LOUIS: Tiger Woods hits from the 12th fairway during the first round of the PGA Championship at the Bellerive Country Club on Thursday.—AP

ST LOUIS (Missouri): Gary Woodland fell in love with Bellerive Country Club when he first played it a month ago. It’s a big golf course that would play into the hands of a power player. It would be soft from the stifling heat and humidity of summer, allowing him to be aggressive.

Woodland delivered his best performance in a major Thursday at the PGA Championship. All because of his putter.

Once he settled down while playing before so many family members and friends, the Kansas-bred Woodland, who has never posted a top-10 finish in a major, ran off seven birdies and made five putts from 15 feet or longer for a 6-under 64, giving him a one-shot lead over Rickie Fowler in an opening round that otherwise went as advertised.

For most of the day Fowler had ruled the leaderboard after launching his quest for his first major with a 65 but could only watch as Woodland —who snapped a five-year PGA victory drought by winning in February at Phoenix — mounted an unexpected charge.

“When I see putts go in, that just gets me going,” Woodland said. “It’s really starting to click. I thought I was putting well. It was nice to see them go in.”

Many of the favourites to claim the year’s final major sweated it out on a sweltering day, including Tiger Woods who got off to a bogey, double-bogey start and spent the rest of his round undoing the damage to salvage a 70.

The 14-times major winner was in a group with twice PGA champion Rory McIlroy who also returned a 70 and world number two Justin Thomas, with the defending champion opening with 69.

South African Brandon Stone, who won July’s Scottish Open, shot 66 to share third with US two-time major winner Zach Johnson.

World number one Dustin Johnson, Australian Jason Day, the 2015 PGA champion, Briton Justin Rose, the 2013 US Open winner and Stewart Cink, the 2009 British Open champ were among the group of 11 players on 67.

Jordan Spieth, in his second crack at the career Grand Slam, opened with a double bogey and finished two bad swings off the tee that sent him to a 71.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2018