Jim Furyk took advantage of rain-softened conditions to surge into an early one-shot lead at the PGA Championship yesterday as Tiger Woods double-bogeyed his final hole to finish six strokes adrift.
American veteran Furyk, whose only major victory came at the 2003 U.S. Open, fired a five-under-par 65 in the opening round to take control on a sunny day at Oak Hill Country Club.
The 43-year-old piled up six birdies and a lone bogey, at the par-4 ninth, to finish one ahead of Canadian journeyman David Hearn, who is making his debut appearance in the year’s final major.
“I felt like the golf course would be a good fit for me,” said Furyk. “It’s set up a lot like a U.S. Open course.”
Englishman Paul Casey, Americans Robert Garrigus and Matt Kuchar, and Australian Marcus Fraser opened with 67s while American Steve Stricker and in-form Swede Henrik Stenson were among a group of six knotted on 68.
Woods appeared to be on track for a one-under round after relying on his renowned scrambling abilities for much of the day but he made a complete hash of the par-4 ninth to return a one-over 71.
After hitting his second shot into tangly rough short of the green, he chunked his third under the lip of a bunker from where he splashed out to 15 feet. His bogey putt then lipped out and he had to settle for an ugly six.
Woods was a heavy favourite coming into this week after romping to a seven-stroke victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday, but is hunting his first major victory since the 2008 U.S. Open.
Hearn, who has played most of his professional golf on the lower-tier tours, began and ended his round with bogeys but piled up six birdies in between to set the early pace.
The 34-year-old, who lives in Brantford, Ontario where ice hockey great Wayne Gretzky was born, hit ten of 14 fairways and produced some sparkling approach shots to move into contention for a first victory on the PGA Tour.
“I did a little bit of everything well, and drove it well,” said Hearn, whose best finish on the US circuit was a play-off loss at last month’s John Deere Classic tournament.
“It feels good for me to be in contention and I feel like I’ve been playing some really good golf the last few months. It’s nice to be in this spot early this week.”
Hearn’s only previous major experience came with two missed cuts at the US Open before he tied for 21st in this year’s edition at Merion.
Watched by massive galleries, Woods made an encouraging start with a birdie at the par-5 13th, his fourth hole, where he laid up in two after taking an iron off the tee before hitting a stunning approach to a foot short of the cup. He also birdied the par-3 15th, sinking an eight-footer there, to reach the turn in two-under 33.
Woods squandered a golden birdie opportunity at the par-4 second after he struck a superb approach to three feet, his putt not even touching the hole as it curled away on the low side.
His round unravelled over the closing stretch as he bogeyed the par-5 fourth after his tee shot sailed away to the right before he signed off with a six at the ninth.
Defending champion Rory McIlroy, who is seeking to turn his game around after a poor year by his standards, was among the late starters.
Also setting off in the afternoon was the marquee group of this year’s major winners - Australian Adam Scott (Masters), Englishman Justin Rose (U.S. Open) and American Phil Mickelson (British Open).