Kohler (Wisconsin): Anirban Lahiri managed to hang in for an impressive round of two-under 70 and a tied 15th place despite the wind that picked when he was on back and costed him a double bogey on the 18th on the first day of the PGA Championships at Whistling Straits.
Lahiri, who had six birdies, three on either side of the turn, also had two bogeys on the 11th and 14th and a disappointing double bogey on the closing 18th, which played as the hardest hole on the course.
Higher winds greeted those with afternoon tee times and resulted in scoring differences between morning and afternoon groups. There were 25 sub-par rounds from among morning groups and only 13 among those in afternoon. The morning saw 12 rounds in 60s and only two from the afternoon.
Lahiri, winner of Malaysian Open and Hero Indian Open this season, and currently ranked No. 53 in the world, agreed the conditions were tough out there, but said, "I am pretty happy with the way I played. I missed a few short putts but I also made a couple of long ones."
Lahiri's card of 70 saw him tied with eight other including Asia's only Major winner, Y E Yang of Korea. Lahiri opened with a flourish with a birdie on the first and added two more on the fourth and seventh to turn in three-under. He added a fourth birdie on 10th, at which point he was very briefly even in top-5 on the leaderboard. His first bogey on 11th was quickly compensated by a
birdie on par-3 12th. He again dropped a shot on 14th but picked a birdie on par-5 16th, where he even had an 18-footer for an eagle.
Following a par on 17th, where he hit a great approach shot, Lahiri was four-under at the 18th tee. But he went onto the fairway bunker, which was rather hard and ended with a double bogey.
On the front nine, where Lahiri was three-under, he also missed a 14-footer for birdie on second, a nine-footer on par-3 third and on the apr-5 fifth, he hit his third shot to 10 feet two inches, but missed the birdie putt. However, he did hole a neat 23-footer on par-3 seventh and earlier holed another on fourth from almost 35 feet, both for birdies.
On the back nine, Lahiri missed an eight-footer for birdie on 11th and bogeyed the par-4 when he went into the bunker and was not able to roll in a 25-28 footer for par. Then came the final double on 18th.
"Frankly, I played pretty good, but I gave away too many shots on the back nine. The last especially was disappointing. I found the fairway but it was playing hard. But I feel if I
can keep this going for the rest of the week, it should be good," he added. He admitted he missed a few short putts but quickly added, "If I can keep hitting within 15 feet or so, I will eventually hole a few more."
Sitting atop the leaderboard was Dustin Johnson, who made good use of the morning conditions, as long as he could. Playing in his sixth PGA Championship, Johnson fired an opening-round 6-under-par 66 and grabbed the first-round lead.
The 66 was Johnson's second-lowest score in a PGA Championship and best in an opening round. Starting on the back side, Johnson birdied his initial two holes and eagled the 573-yard, par-5 16th, which was his seventh hole of the morning. He capped off his round by sinking a 10-footer for par on No. 9.
Tiger Woods' putting woes saw him finish with three-over 75 in tied-86th place. He will need a strong second round to make the weekend. Jordan Spieth, winner of Masters and US Open this year, and Rory McIlroy, the defending champion both carded one-under 71 each and were tied for 24th place. Spieth had two birdies and one bogey and parred the entire front stretch, while McIlroy, returning from an ankle injury, had four birdies against three bogeys.
Eight players were at 4-under 68 and two shots off Johnson's 66. They were Jason Day, Harris English, Russell Henley, J B Holmes, Matt Jones, Matt Kuchar, Danny Lee and Scott Piercy.
Martin Kaymer, who claimed the first of his two major championships at Whistling Straits in 2010, opened with a 70 that included a double bogey on his final hole, the ninth. Yet, Kaymer was off to a better start than in 2010, when he shot a first-round 72. Kaymer is currently tied for 15th place.