KIAWAH ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - Adam Scott and Graeme McDowell had two of the lowest afternoon round to emerge near the top of the pack after the first round of the PGA Championship at The Ocean Course. Sweden's Carl Pettersson remains in the lead at 6-under-par.
Conditions on the golf course changed drastically Thursday afternoon. A hot and humid morning with barely a breeze shifted into a cool afternoon with stiff winds coming off the Atlantic Ocean. Not many players who teed off in the afternoon came close to taking over the top spot owned by Pettersson, but Scott and McDowell are just two shots back at 4-under-par.
Pettersson, a current North Carolina resident, turned in a 6-under 66 earlier Thursday. Rory McIlroy and American Gary Woodland are in a four-way tie for third with Gonzalo Fernandex-Castano and Alex Noren at 5-under par.
Graeme McDowell surged up to a tie for sixth place after birdies at Nos. 15 and 16 to move to 4-under. Scott finished with mostly pars, but birdied the 16th hole to move two strokes back.
"I think it was a pretty good round of golf," Scott said. "You know, I wasn't feeling 100 percent with it all out there, but I controlled my game nicely, managed it well. My short game was sharpe when it needed to be., which is going to be important because it's just a hard golf course and you're not going to hit every green.
Joost Luiten of the Netherlands was a brief conversation topic earlier Thursday as he shot up the leaderboard with a score of 8-under. Luiten's luck faded fast thought after bogeying his last four holes to finish 4-under.
McIlroy was able to put together a bogey-free round of 67. The Northern Irishman hit 10 of 14 fairways and found 15 of the 18 greens at The Ocean Course in regulation. McIlroy said he skipped practicing Wednesday in order to conserve energy. So far, the decision is paying off.
"It's a great way to start the tournament," McIlroy said. "I got off to a great start and was 3-under through seven and I just took it on from there. So very happy with the round, and it's a great score to build on."
Woodland, who also shot a 5-under 67, birdied his second-to-last hole, No. 8, to briefly join the leaders.
"I almost hit another hole-in-one on 8," he said. "I hit 8-iron in to a couple of feet."
The first "almost" hole-in-one came on No. 17. His shot hit the flag and drew large cheers from the crowd.
"Then 17, I think I hit the pin is what they said," Woodland said. "I hit a 5-iron in there, hit the pin, stopped right next to the hole, tapped in for a birdie."
Luiten, who started on the back nine, eagled the par-5 16th and birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 5 before bogeying 6,7,8 and 9 to finish. Fan favorite John Daly also turned heads in the first round. Daily is tied for fifth after a 4-under 68. He eagled the par-5 11th.
"I've been playing good," Daly said. "I'm just trying to keep it at my own pace, just be myself and play golf, enjoy it. This is such a fabulous golf course, you can sit here all day long, especially starting on the front, and you can't help but think all day long, if I can just par the par 3's all week, I have a chance to play really, really well."
The majority of the fans at The Ocean Course followed Tiger Woods in the morning. Woods birdied three holes in a row before bogeying No. 4. Woods is tied for 14th after his 3-under par 69.
"I played well today," Woods said. "Anything in the 60's is going to be a good start in a major championship, and I'm right there."
Woods had five birdies on the day and two bogeys. He brought the gallery to its feet with a birdie on No. 18, which sparked his birdie charge.
Defending champion Keegan Bradley spent most of the morning near the top of the leaderboard after an eagle on No. 11, but his three-putt bogey on No. 18 dropped him to 2-under. He then rebounded with a pair of birdies on his second nine holes. Bradley sits in a tie for fifth at 4-under.