KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina (Reuters) -Four-times major winner Brooks Koepka recovered from a shaky start to grab a share of the early first-round lead at the PGA Championship on Thursday with defending champion Collin Morikawa lurking one back.
Playing the more difficult back nine first at the windswept Ocean course, Koepka got his day off to a stumbling start with a double bogey but gathered himself to card a stellar three-under 69 and join Keegan Bradley and Norwegian Viktor Hovland atop the leaderboard.
“It wasn’t ideal, the start,” said Koepka, winner of back-to-back PGA Championships in 2018-19. “It was nice to get it back to even before I turned back into the wind.
“At the same time, you can’t do that stuff if you want to win. You’ve just got to be more focused.
“I don’t know if that’s a lack of not playing or what. I don’t know, it was just stupid.”
Morikawa had looked poised to make it a foursome with a share of the clubhouse lead but a bogey at his last left the young American one off the early pace at two-under.
Potentially the longest course in major championship history at 7,876 yards, the seaside monster layout was shortened to 7,660 yards but was nonetheless presenting a challenge to the world’s top golfers.
World number two Justin Thomas and Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, winner the last time the PGA Championship was played at Kiawah Island in 2012, never found any rhythm on a blustery sun-kissed morning and returned three-over 75s.
Big-hitting U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau had looked ready to muscle his way to a good day with a par-birdie-birdie start but faded with four consecutive bogeys before grinding to an even par 72.
“The wind just kicked my butt,” said DeChambeau. It’s heat, hot. Just grinding out there, it takes a lot out of you.
“It’s all just a really difficult thing that you’ve got to control out there. It’s a lot of work.’
Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan turned in a scrappy one-over 73 that included three birdies, two bogeys and a double-bogey.
John Daly, the 1991 PGA Championship winner, got off to a spectacular start by holing out from a bunker for a birdie on his opening hole.
But that would be the only highlight of an otherwise miserable round that included three doubles and a triple bogey in a 13-over 85 to leave him anchored at the bottom of the leaderboard.
Conditions were toughening for the afternoon wave that includes world number one Dustin Johnson, third-ranked Spaniard Jon Rahm and Jordan Spieth, who needs a PGA Championship win to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to complete the career Grand Slam.
(Reporting by Andrew Both, writing by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond)