Australia’s Davis hot on heels of PGA Championship leader Conners
Kiawah Island, South Carolina: Canada’s Corey Conners tamed a windswept Ocean course on Friday (AEST), carding the round of the day to lead by two shots after the opening of the PGA Championship, with Australian Cameron Davis and former winners Brooks Koepka and Keegan Bradley giving chase.
Trying to join Masters champion Mike Weir as the only Canadians to win one of golf’s four majors, Conners produced a stellar effort on a seaside layout lashed by gusty winds, mixing six birdies with a single bogey for a five-under 67.
Australia’s Cameron Davis has had a strong start to the US PGA Championship.Credit:Getty Images
“It helps when you’re hitting the ball in pretty good spots and not really having to stress too much. There was one hole where I was a little bit frazzled but for the most part I was just doing my own thing and playing the golf course the way that I see fits my game and just trying to chill out between shots.”
One shot further back at two under is another large group that includes defending champion Collin Morikawa and Phil Mickelson, who for one day at least looked more like the golfer who has won five majors than the one without a top 20 finish this season. With a single PGA Tour title and having missed the cut in five of nine previous majors, Conners was not rated among the hot favourites, but with seven top 10s this season has been one of the more consistent performers.
That calm confidence was evident on a wild day as the Canadian quietly went about his business walking off the course hoping his beloved Toronto Maple Leafs could get off to the same start he did when they faced arch-rival Montreal Canadiens in the opening round of the NHL play-offs.
”I was fortunate to have a good day. Made it as least stressful as possible on myself,” Conners said.
Canada’s Corey Conners leads the US PGA Championship after the first round.Credit:AP
Playing the more difficult back nine first, Koepka got his day off to a stumbling start with a double bogey but quickly gathered himself with birdies on two of the next three holes.
“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.”
Potentially the longest course in major championship history at 7200 metres the seaside monster layout was shortened to 7000m but nonetheless presented a challenge to the world’s top golfers.
World No.1 Dustin Johnson could not get in gear the entire day, wrapping up his round with his second double bogey of the day at 18 for a four-over 76.
World No.2 Justin Thomas and Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, winner the last time the PGA Championship was played at Kiawah Island in 2012, could not do much better, returning three-over 75s.
Jordan Spieth, needing a PGA Championship to complete the career grand slam, launched his latest bid with a one-over 73 as did Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan.
Big-hitting US 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.”
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