News and Notes from Round 1 of the PGA Championship
• Officially, the PGA Championship teed off with 99 of the top 100 players in the Official World Golf Ranking. … Zach Johnson, who teed off on the 10th hole Thursday morning, made the first eagle of the 103rd PGA Championship, making 3 at the 571-yard 11th hole. He knocked an approach from 240 yards to 6 feet. Johnson shot 74. … With the difficult par-3 17th hole playing directly into the wind, the tee was moved up to 214 yards. … Will Zalatoris made an eagle-2 at the 469-yard sixth, holing his approach from 119 yards.
• PGA professional Patrick Rada, a University of South Carolina graduate, had the honor of hitting the opening tee shot on Thursday at the 103rd PGA Championship at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.
“It was amazing,” said Rada, PGA Head Professional at McArthur Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla. He shot 4-over 76. “As soon as I qualified, I had heard a rumor that they might want me to lead off the tournament, being from South Carolina, spending so much time in the state. Obviously, officially, it came out Tuesday with the pairings … really just honored to start this Championship.”
Patrick’s alarm sounded at 4 a.m., and he was the first player on the practice tee. He made three birdies, the highlight being a 28-footer he rolled in from off the green at the par-4 ninth. Rada, 33, had his own cheering section, consisting of 15 people, a group that included his wife, his father, his brother and an aunt and uncle.
Rada got ready for the PGA Championship by playing golf at McArthur last week with Hall of Fame member Nick Price, who won the PGA in 1992 and 1994. Price co-designed McArthur with Tom Fazio.
“He played here in the '07 Senior PGA, I believe it was, so he was pretty familiar with the Ocean Course,” Rada said. “Certainly, I took his advice to heart.”
• How severe is the wind at Kiawah Island? Well, Aaron Wise, who opened with a round of 3-under 69, said he has hit a 6-iron from 130 yards in a practice round this week as well as covered 190 yards with a 9-iron.
“It's just one of those things where you've really got to trust it,” said Wise, 24, who opened his third PGA Championship with a round of 69. “You've really got to know the ball is going to bounce, but they did an incredible job of setting up the course receptive enough to where we could still get at certain pins. It would have been easy for them to not do that, but yes, there's definitely situations where you're hitting clubs that are going either really short or really far.”
• Francesco Molinari, the 2018 British Open champion, withdrew Thursday morning after experiencing a lower back issue as he was warming up. “I hope to get better quickly and be able to go back playing as soon as possible,” he tweeted. Molinari has played in 11 PGAs, and had top-6 or better finishes in two of the last three years. Long-hitting Brandon Hagy replaced him in the field, and shot 77. … Sam Burns, a runner-up last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson in Texas, withdrew from the championship after playing nine holes. He slipped on the fifth hole and tweaked his back.
• At 7,748 yards, Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course is the longest course in major championship history, replacing Erin Hills, which measured 7,741 yards for the 2017 U.S. Open. In 2012 at the PGA Championship, the Ocean Course tipped out at 7,676 yards, which then was a record. On Thursday, the Ocean Course was set up at 7,660 yards.
• Club professional Peter Ballo, 29, a PGA Assistant Professional at Slivermine Golf Club in Norwalk, Conn., is following in his dad’s footsteps by competing in the PGA Championship this week. Golf is the family business. His father, Mike, and mother, Page, are PGA Members from the Metropolitan PGA Section, and Mike played in a handful of majors, including the 1967 PGA. The Ballos were the Met Golf Writers Family of the Year in 2020.
• Brad Faxon, the man who owns the lowest nine-hole score in PGA Championship history – a 28 on the front nine at Riviera in 1995 – is at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course this week doing commentary for Sirius/XM. Faxon shot 63 on that final day in 1995 and earned a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.