Jason Day leads, two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka lurking after 1st day of PGA Championship
Brooks Koepka never seems to leave.
Day took advantage of a TPC Harding Park that never felt this accommodating during the practice rounds. With only a mild breeze and a welcome appearance by the sunshine, he finished his bogey-free round of 5-under 65 with an approach to 6 feet for birdie on No. 9, the toughest hole on the course at 518 yards.
That allowed him to break out of a large pack one shot behind, a group that included major champions from years gone by, a PGA Tour rookie and the one guy — Koepka — who shows up at every major no matter what kind of shape his game is in.
Koepka is the two-time defending champion, presented the opportunity this week to become only the seventh player in the 160-year history of major championship golf to win the same major three years in a row. It was last done 64 years ago.
He’s still a little annoyed that he missed a similar chance last year down the Pacific coast at Pebble Beach, when he finished runner-up in his bid for a third straight U.S. Open.
He hasn’t won in more than a year. His left knee has been bothering him since last August. No matter. After a slow start, Koepka powered his way six birdies and made a series of key putts for par — and one 12-footer for bogey — that gave him an ideal start to this major.
He was at 66 with eight other players, a list that included former major winners Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer and Zach Johnson, rising star Xander Schauffele and tour rookie Scottie Scheffler.
“It’s only 18 holes right now,” Koepka said. “I feel good. I feel confident. I’m excited for the next three days. I think I can definitely play a lot better. Just need to tidy a few things up, and we’ll be there come Sunday on the back nine.”
Tiger Woods ran off three birdies in a four-hole stretch toward the end of his round that offset a few mistakes in his round of 68, a solid start for a 15-time major champion who has played just one tournament in the last six months.
Woods put a new putter into play — this one is a little longer, which he says helps him practice longer without straining his surgically repaired back — and it came in handy. He made a 30-foot birdie early. He was most pleased with a 20-foot par putt on No. 18 as he made the turn. And he was thrilled with the weather.
“I thought anything today in the red was going to be good,” Woods said.
Instead of the wind and chill and the thick marine layer, it was pleasant enough to make this feel like a casual round of golf.
It sounded like that, too.