Okay let’s take stock of the leaderboard shall we? Rickie Fowler just wrapped up a presser in which he was understandably upbeat after opening with a five-under 65. There’s nobody at four-under but there’s a whole squad at three-under: Cook Poulter Perez Day and Gay all posted rounds of 67 and three more — Cink Grace and Schniederjans — are on their 18th hole. Scores aren’t insanely low as some predicted but there are a bunch of guys in red figures.
The biggest surprise is just how few surprises there were! The leaderboard seems to be going according to plan. The top 7 players in the world are all under par in stark contrast to the superstar carnage at the U.S. and British Opens. The best players appear to be playing the best. Bring on the weekend!
Tiger Woods is only three weeks removed from a thrilling performance at the British Open. He will be joined by two other PGA Tour stars: Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas. Thomas is the defending champion this week and will look to capture his second major title and second-straight win at Bellerive. McIlroy will look to get back in the major winner’s circle and put a third Wanamaker trophy on his shelf.
Patrick Reed has made back-to-back bogeys to fall to +3 through 7 holes. No one seems to be going really low this afternoon. Spieth saves par at 6 with a clutch putt. He really needed that to keep from really going off the rails.
I’m surprised by the variety of big and short hitters at the top. DJ Rickie Woodland Day … and ZJ Gay and Kisner? Looks like Bellerive is more than a bomb-and-gouge setup which is what you want at a major.
A near miss for Rory’s birdie and Tiger follows suit coming up just short. JT also comes up short from the fringe and taps in for par. So ho-hum on No. 3 for our trio. No. 3 is playing 153 yards today. TW hits a safe shot to about pin high 20 feet from the cup. JT takes a more aggressive line and ends up just off the green on the fringe. And Rory hits a safe shot like Tiger also 20-25 feet from the hole.
I don’t know Bellerive from Bel Air. (In fact I’m not sure how to pronounce it.) But I’m told the fairways are wider than traditional bomb-and-gouge tracks like Firestone. That means well-placed shorter drives should be rewarded with better lines to attack the greens. Don’t count the Zachs out just yet!
Justin Rose hits a good bunker shot to give himself a decent look at birdie from the fringe but he ends up settling for par. Rahm also misses his birdie attempt. Spieth gave it a nice run but alas must also settle for par. On to No. 13.
It will favor bombers and there a lot of those. Take your pick. Rahm. DJ. Justin Thomas. Rory. Within that subset take the guy with the hottest putter which is far more variable and harder to predict. I like Tony Finau because…what’s not to like?
Leaderboard update: Gary Woodland just birdied No. 11 (his second hole) to get to -7 two shots clear of Rickie Fowler Kevin Kisner and Brandon Stone. Kisner birdied his first two holes today while Stone just birdied the par-3 16th. All three players opt to lay up and find the fairway with irons off the tee.
Patrick Reed (+2) stops the bleeding with a birdie at 9. 52-year-old John Daly is off to an impressive start. He’s made one birdie and two bogeys to go +1 on his first nine.
Welp no birdie conversions for our trio so we move on to No. 14. Hey watch out — British Open champ Francesco Molinari is having a nice start today. He’s two under through four holes to get to -4 — only three shots back of the lead.