Major champions chasing on day two
After 13 months away, major championship golf returned with a bang Thursday at TPC Harding Park.
The first round of the 2020 PGA Championship saw a host of former major champions post impressive opening scores to put themselves in a position to claim the first major title of 2020.
When the dust settled on Thursday, 2015 PGA champion Jason Day and Brendon Todd were the leaders at 5-under-par, with a host of players including Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele and Justin Rose one shot back at 4-under.
If the first round had you on the edge of your seat then should buckle up for what’s sure to be an eventful second round.
Friday at TPC Harding Park will be chock-full of storylines as the world’s best look to put themselves in the best position to contend on the weekend.
All eyes Friday should be on Day and the big names chasing him. The 32-year-old has struggled with his game recently, but he arrived at Harding Park after three consecutive top-10 finishes. Day built on that positive momentum in the first round, with all facets of his game leading him to a bogey-free 5-under-par 65.
“I feel like the momentum that I've had over the last three starts has kind of seeped into this week,” Day said after his round. “I'm excited about -- the funny thing is that every day I'm excited to go back to the golf course and play, whereas before I was struggling to get up and going, ‘Oh, do I want to kind of put myself through this again?’ To be honest, I'm excited to get out and play every week now.”
Day will look to extend his lead Friday when he tees off at 1:03 p.m. PT with Martin Kaymer and Jason Dufner.
Going wire-to-wire will be a massive challenge for Day, with Koepka, Rose, Schauffele, Tiger Woods, Patrick Reed Gary Woodland, Bryson DeChambeau, Shane Lowry and others all within three shots of him.
Koepka, who is looking to become the first player to win three straight PGA Championships since Walter Hagen won four in a row from 1924-27, got off to a sloppy start Thursday, but rebounded to post 4-under and is ready to chase Day and history over the weekend.
“I feel good. I feel confident,” Koepka said after his round. “I'm excited for the next three days. I think I can definitely play a lot better, and just need to tidy a few things up, and we'll be there come Sunday on the back nine.”
Koepka will tee off at 1:36 p.m. PT on Friday with Woodland and Lowry.
While all eyes Friday will be on Day and the pack of proven champions chasing him, there are several top players who will have to post low numbers Friday in order to play the weekend at TPC Harding Park.
Jordan Spieth struggled all day Thursday with his driver en route to a 3-over-par 73. Rickie Fowler also posted a 3-over as did Patrick Cantlay and Sergio Garcia.
Phil Mickelson couldn’t get anything going Thursday, shooting a 2-over-par 72.
World No. 1 Justin Thomas squandered early momentum, carding double bogeys on No. 3 and No. 7 to finish the round at 1-over.
Meanwhile Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm fought the golf course and grinded out even-par rounds to stay afloat after difficult opening stanzas.
“I mean, I can't tell you, it just seemed like a tough day all around,” Rahm said. “I was aware that if you don't put it in the fairway it's going to be a long day, and that's what happened. On the back nine, I was able to make some clutch up-and-downs. I made a lot of good pars on 11, 12, 13. And then 14, 15 and 16, I actually was able to give myself birdie chances.
“But with how the day went, even par is more than enough for me today.”
With the cutline looking like it could come in around even par, all of those players will have to put together good Friday rounds to ensure their first major experience of 2020 isn’t a quick one.
With the lead at 5-under, a good round from McIlroy, Rahm and Thomas will get them right back into the championship mix. A poor showing, however, will spell the end of their title hopes.
TPC Harding Park proved to be an appropriate test for the best in the world.
After one round, the 2020 PGA Championship leaderboard is packed with stars and past major champions.
Day continued to exorcise some his recent demons and took one step toward golf immortality Thursday. But history is very much within Koepka’s grasp. It will take a herculean effort to snatch the Wanamaker Trophy from him.
The championship is anyone’s to win. Which makes Friday’s second round at TPC Harding Park the definition of must-watch.