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The start of day two at the PGA Championship is fast approaching, and all eyes will be on Rory McIlroy following the Northern Irishman’s tremendous start on Thursday. With more detail on his lead and plenty of other topics, here is everything to watch out for at Tulsa today…
Woods looks to teammate
Tiger Woods has pledged to take a leaf out of Rory McIlroy’s book as he fights to make the weekend at the USPGA Championship. The 2007 champion at Southern Hills lies outside the cut line after struggling with his right leg and his game in posting a ragged opening 74 but an armchair view of first round leader McIlroy cruising along in his group has shown Woods what is possible.
“You can shoot something in the mid-60s – Rory proved that today. He made it look very easy,” said Woods. “It can be done, I’ve witnessed it first hand, so hopefully I can put together something similar and get myself back in this tournament.
“I was struggling trying to get the ball on the green, and I missed quite a few iron shots both ways. It was a frustrating day.” Of equal concern to Woods than the technical problems are the physical issues he endured. He was confident the right leg he shattered in a car crash last February would be stronger six weeks on from the Masters but he was handicapped more in his first round at Southern Hills than on the Thursday at Augusta.
He is banking on ice baths after his first round helping to restore him today.
McIlroy keeping his feet on the ground
Rory McIlroy is refusing to allow himself to dream of a first Major in eight years as he heads into the second round with a one-shot lead. McIlroy had only shot 66 or better five times in the opening round of a Major going into Southern Hills and on three of those occasions he won so his five-under par 65 has set others’ thoughts racing towards another Wanamaker Trophy. But not his. Yet.
“It is a great start but I’m not getting ahead of myself,” said McIlroy. “I could easily have shot 68 or 69 today and not led but if I had played the same golf I still would have been as positive about it as I am now.
“I hit some great tee shots, I hit some great iron shots and holed some nice putts. I did pretty much everything you need to do out there. I’m going to have to keep doing that over the next three days if I’m going to have a chance to win.”
McIlroy will share the spotlight again with Tiger Woods – and Jordan Spieth in the glamour group for round two However the 7.36pm tee time, UK time, could see them face the toughest of the conditions with strong winds forecast.
Zalatoris up for the challenge
Will Zalatoris loves the hardest tests in golf and it is showing again at Southern Hills. The 25-year-old Californian has only played seven Majors but has finished in the top ten four times and is up on the leaderboard again at the USPGA as Rory McIlroy’s closest pursuer alongside Tom Hoge.
Zalatoris is renowned for his ball striking but it was his long-range putting which enabled to shoot a four-under par opening round. “I think all six of my birdies came from the rough which is just very bizarre,” said Zalatoris.
“I’m very pleased obviously. Anytime you can put up a 66 in a Major, you’re obviously happy. My general attitude is you get four of these a year, they’re special, and I don’t want to leave anything to chance.”
Bunkers causing concern
The coarse sand at Southern Hills has caused controversy by turning bunkers into genuine hazards. Players more used to bleached backdrops which showcase their short games have been nonplussed by what they have found in the 71 green-side traps.
“It’s definitely the most challenging sand I’ve ever played in just because, first off, it’s not very consistent,” said Justin Thomas, who is in contention at three under. “I’m sure you’ve seen from watching the coverage, it’s really difficult to get spin – basically impossible.”
World No 1 Scottie Scheffler, who stands one over, is equally unimpressed. “There are definitely some pebbles in there. It’s frustrating for sure to get in there and have a pebble shoot your ball off line,” said the Masters champion. “I don’t really think it should be up to pure luck on whether or not you get a good or a bad lie in the bunker. I think we all appreciate on Tour having bunker sand that’s really, really good with the speed of the greens.”
Fitzpatrick chipping away
Matt Fitzpatrick will tee it up in the second round as the only Englishman under par after his unusual cross-handed chipping style helped him post a fine opening 68. “It’s just very, very consistent compared to when I was chipping normal handed,” said Fitzpatrick.