By Mark Lamport-Stokes
Jim Furyk took advantage of rain-softened conditions to surge into an early one-shot lead at the PGA Championship on Thursday 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. “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.”
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-four 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.
Watched by massive galleries, Woods made an encouraging start with a birdie at the par-five 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-three 15th, sinking an eight-footer there, to reach the turn in two-under 33.
Woods squandered a golden birdie opportunity at the par-four 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-five fourth after his tee shot sailed well 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 (Open Championship).
By Mark Lamport-Stokes