JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Steve Stricker stood a bald 10 anxiety abroad from the everyman annular anytime in a major, a arresting moment at any added championship.
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Not this one.
Not with U.S. Open best Rory McIlroy, the admired at this PGA, aggravating to bang a 7-iron through a timberline root. He afflicted his wrist so abominably that he anticipation of quitting, yet somehow managed an even-par 70 admitting not actuality able to adhere assimilate the club with both hands.
And not with Tiger Woods attractive like a 14-time above best for bristles holes, alone to accomplishment 14 shots out of the advance afterwards barrier through the beach and announcement a 77, his second-worst account anytime in a major.
Already a memorable year in the majors, it looks like the PGA Championship wants a allotment of the action.
On a sweat-stained Thursday at Atlanta Athletic Club, Stricker became the 11th amateur in PGA Championship history to shoot 63. He opened with three beeline birdies and kept appropriate on activity until he stood on the bend of history afterwards alike alive it.
Only afterwards his baboon putt for 62 slid by the cup did his caddie, Jimmy Johnson, acquaint him that it was for the almanac in a major.
“It never absolutely registered,” Stricker said. “I was aloof aggravating to achieve a baboon and accomplishment 8 under, and I absolutely was apperception on the putt, but never anticipation about the history allotment of it.”
He never anticipation he could be aloft the leaderboard, either. Afterwards three canicule of convenance on the 7,467-yard advance — the longest par 70 anytime at a above — Stricker didn’t accept a acceptable activity about his chances. His money would accept been on his Wisconsin neighbor, Jerry Kelly, and he wasn’t too far off.
Kelly had a career-best 65 in the PGA Championship and was two shots behind. Completing the American aggregation aloft the leaderboard was above PGA best Shaun Micheel at 66 and Scott Verplank with a 67, conceivably the bigger abruptness of the day because Verplank has been aggressive a wrist injury.
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For the longest time, it looked as admitting he would accept aggregation in concrete therapy.
The 22-year-old McIlroy showed his age, if not his assured style, by demography a attempt out of the larboard asperous on the third hole, alike admitting his brawl sat absolutely abaft a two-inch-wide timberline root. He let the club fly from his easily on contact, but it was too late.
The brawl alone went about 20 yards abaft added trees, and McIlroy anon began afraid his appropriate hand. Before long, he noticed abscess by the wrist and a anguish that continued all the day up to his shoulder.
“It was dangerous,” McIlroy conceded. “In hindsight, it would accept been bigger to dent out sideways. I still fabricated 5. Yeah, it was a attempt that I acquainted like, if I took it on and pulled it off, it could accept adored me a shot.”
It about amount him the blow of the week.
McIlroy put an ice abbreviate on his wrist and afresh summoned a concrete therapist. He anticipation about abandoning but apprenticed on, backward and coil his wrist and authoritative aloof abundant putts for a arresting annular of 70.
An MRI showed McIlroy had a artificial bond in his wrist, according to a account put out by his handlers at International Sports Management.
“He will acutely blow it tonight,” the account said, “and see how it feels in the morning on the range.”
The alone abrasion to Woods was to his psyche.
He was 3 beneath through bristles holes, including a 5-wood from ache harbinger over a bank and beneath a timberline that set up baboon on the par-5 12th hole. But afterwards a 4-iron into the baptize on the par-3 15th, he came undone.
Woods fabricated three bifold bogeys over the abutting 10 holes and anguish up in a dozen bunkers. One aftermost bogey gave him his second-highest account in a major, abaft the 81 he attempt at Muirfield in the 2002 British Open aback it was wet and windy. This day was artlessly steamy, which declared Woods’ affection afterwards a annular that got away.
“I’m not down,” he said. “I’m absolutely affronted appropriate now. There’s a lot of words I could use above that.”
He attributed the abominable turnaround to ditching mechanics and aggravating to comedy as admitting his beat changes were advancing naturally. A 13-hole alternation bones showed otherwise.
“Got off to a abundant alpha today, was 3 beneath early, was accepting automated thoughts through those holes … and I thought, ‘I can let it go’ and comedy by aptitude and feel,” he said. “And it aloof busted up my able round. I’m not at that point area I can do that yet.”
For actuality such a continued course, it didn’t feel that way. The PGA of America confused up several tees, and temperatures in the 90s enabled the brawl to biking alike farther.
Stricker led 22 players who bankrupt par, although Atlanta Athletic Club doled out its allotment of punishment. No one suffered absolutely like Ryo Ishikawa, the 19-year-old from Japan who was advancing off his best accomplishment in America aftermost anniversary at Firestone, area he angry for fourth. He had a career-high 85, with six assurance in the water.
Eight added players attempt in the 80s, including above U.S. Open best Lucas Glover.
Luke Donald, No. 1 in the world, opened with a 70, while second-ranked Lee Westwood began his adventure for his aboriginal above at 71. McIlroy played in the acceptable alignment of the year’s above champions, with Masters best Charl Schwartzel aperture with a 71 admitting a bifold bogey on the aftermost aperture and British Open best Darren Clarke at 78.
Stricker is the highest-ranked American at No. 5 in the world, and the Americans abiding charge a boost. They haven’t won a above aback Phil Mickelson triumphed at the 2010 Masters, advancing up abbreviate at six in a row. During that span, Northern Ireland has captured three championships, South Africa two and Germany one.
Mickelson attempt 71 on Thursday, with two birdies and three bogeys.
Stricker had alone 24 putts on greens that are appreciably smooth. At atomic best of them were, anyway.
If the aperture annular wasn’t camp enough, the mowers malfunctioned Wednesday night and tore up chunks of accommodation on the edges of the 14th and 17th greens. They were patched able-bodied abundant to play, yet they are advised arena beneath adjustment for the blow of the week.
It was no added than a slight breach on a brawl dress for a advance that combines a little of the adorableness and acclivity begin two hours abroad at Augusta National and the attenuated fairways and Bermuda asperous abreast city Atlanta at East Lake.
Stricker has already won alert this year and feels as admitting he has annihilation larboard to prove, abnormally afterwards he came aback from a slump and fabricated history by actuality voted PGA Tour improvement amateur of the year — in after seasons.
A above championship would be the topper.
“It would be great,” he said. “If I don’t win it, it’s not activity to change who I am or what affectionate of amateur I’ve been. I assumption I able what I set out to achieve six years ago, to get aback in the winner’s circle, to comedy able-bodied again. All this added being is absolutely aloof icing on the cake, and that’s the way I amusement it.”
As for a 63, the 25th time addition has acquaint that account in a major?
“I ambition I would accept been able to achieve that putt to be one bigger than that accumulation of guys,” he said. “But 63 is a heck of a start, and I’m blessed to get off to that start.”
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.
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