USPGA Championship: 7 take-aways as Dustin Johnson carves out lead

Liam Carroll reflects on day one from the USPGA Championship as Dustin Johnson secures a one-shot lead

By Liam Carroll

Injury? What injury?

In his first outing since the US Open, Rory McIlroy appeared to traipse the course with relative ease on Thurdsay in Kohler. In his post-round interview, he admitted that his ankle, that kept him side-lined for nearly two months, felt great. During play, we thought for a moment that we might get a good glimpse of the troubled ankle as the Northern-Irishman found the lake at the fifth hole, keeping his shoes on but rolling up his trousers to strike the ball from the water to land within ten feet as he recovered save par. That was the highlight of the world number one’s round as he played his way to a steady one under par 71, the same score as playing partner Jordan Spieth, who we understand has two healthy ankles.

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The early bird catches the worm (or birdies)

Birdies were order of the morning, as the calm dawn conditions worked wonders for the early risers. Blustery breezes and high winds in the afternoon led to those playing in the pm hours struggling in conditions two to three shots tougher. Friday morning’s groupings will be all out to benefit from the advantageous morning conditions, and will be striving to play catch-up on Thursday morning’s groupings.

Tidy starts, sloppy finishes

Many in the field made starts to remember today at Whistling Straits, before handing shots back. None more so than Australian Adam Scott who, after birdying holes one and two, gave them all back in quick succession with a double bogey at number four. The former Masters champion then hit four more bogeys, and one more double bogey, as he plummeted to four over par for his round.

Likewise did Rickie Fowler, who at three under quadruple bogeyed his twelfth hole, number three, finishing with a one over 73. Moore, Lahiri, Bjorn, Matsuyama and Sabbatini were among others who also undid their explosive starts, dropping shots after promising openings, though not all of these have played their way out of contention.

American Brooks Koepka however played substantially against the grain, shooting four bogeys in his front nine to go out in 40, before swashbuckling his way to five successive birdies from holes ten through fourteen. Bogeys at 15 and 18 undid a portion of the good recovery work, as he signed off on a one over par 73.

The great adventures of Phil’s Mickelson

It’s not quite biography title-worthy, but it goes close to appropriately synopsizing Mickelson’s opening round. The American hit the club house with an even par 72, in what he played like an 82. Phil hit wayward tee and approach shots galore as he traversed practically every blade of grass and grain of sand on and off the course. Fortunately for Lefty, he ensured that his scrambling game and trusted wedges accompanied him on the excursion to keep him in the mix.

The role of the 18th hole

This showpiece hole plays as “Dyeabolical(ly)” as its name suggests. The ultimate hole, named after course designers Pete and Alice Dye, played as the toughest hole during round one and is set to throw plenty of spanners in the works during the weekend. The course scorecard intimates that a score of par is to be desired at the 520 yard par four, with less than half of the field penning the desired score or better on Thursday. Playing at an average score of 4.65, carving out par will be key hoping to gain an advantage over the field over the next three days.

Thunder still has a chance of striking twice

2010 champion Martin Kaymer still remains in contention, signing off on a two-under 70 that contained five birdies, a bogey and a double bogey. The German can be content with having laid a sturdy foundation for him to build on Friday and into the weekend, however Friday’s afternoon conditions are set to present a more stubborn challenge. Vijay Singh, winner here in 2004, hit an opening round 73 and retired one over par.

Good job, Dustin

DJ is quarter-way through exorcising his personal Whistling Strait demons, and sits on his own atop the leader board after carding a morning round of 66, six under par. He leads the way by a stroke to Swede David Lingmerth. Dustin has a recent history of staking early claims in major championships without silverware to show for it, having claimed top spot after round one at both the US Open and The Open Championship this summer. The American will be hoping that his third first round lead in of the major season will prove luckier than the previous two.

Leaderboard

-6: D Johnson
-5: Lingmerth
-4: Henley, Kuchar, English, Holmes, Day, Lee, Jones, Piercy
-3: Steele, Bjorn, Morrison, Rose

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