KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – A leading golf publication chose Kiawah Island as the toughest golf course in America a few years ago. Some of the best players in the world made it look like a walk on the beach Thursday in the PGA Championship.
There was no wind in the morning, when Carl Pettersson made three birdies on the opening four holes, and not even a freshening breeze could keep the self-proclaimed Swedish redneck from a bogey-free round of 6-under 66. It was his first time in 21 tries to break 70 in the PGA Championship, and it gave him a one-shot lead.
Rory McIlroy was on the practice range in what he described as “flat calm.”
“I really thought that I had to take advantage of the conditions,” said McIlroy, who did just that in a bogey-free round of 67, fresh signs that the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland might be ready to his major season on a high note.
McIlroy was joined by Gary Woodland, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain and Alex Noren of Sweden at 67.
A hot but picturesque day along the coast of South Carolina even brought John Daly back into the picture at the major where he first came to prominence 21 years ago. Daly, who hasn’t had his PGA Tour card in six years, made an eagle putt and very few mistakes for a 68.
Pete Dye’s intimidating Ocean Course might still get the best of them in the final major of the year. But for one day, it was there for the taking.
“There really wasn’t much wind on the front nine, so I knew I had to keep going low because I figured the wind would get up,” said Pettersson, who won earlier this year down the coast at Hilton Head.
It was a good day for Tiger Woods, nothing more.
Despite scrambling for bogey on three holes, he made enough birdie putts for a 69, a reasonable start as he tries to end the longest drought of his career in the majors. This is his 14th major since his last major victory in 2008.
“Anything in the 60s is going to be a good start in a major championship,” Woods said. “And I’m right there.”
Puyallup’s Ryan Moore reeled in a 1-over 73 after running into trouble on the par-5 seventh hole, taking a triple-bogey 8.
Gig Harbor’s Kyle Stanley had even more trouble, making three double bogeys and five bogeys in a round of 8-over 80.
Blaine teaching pro Jeff Coston, at age 56, was tied for low club pro after a round of 2-over 74.
He made the cut at the Senior PGA Championship earlier this season.
The projected cut is 1-over par.