TULSA, Okla. ( Associated Press) — There was no Southern charm in the Southern Hills for the world No. 1 player.
Scotty Scheffler scrambles all day in the first round of the PGA Championship, finding bunkers or water, and landing behind trees. A par put out, then he had to take a penalty stroke after driving in danger from the 18th tee.
By the time it’s over, the Masters winner and most influential player of the season Ended with 1-over-71. It was his first round-over in two months and he took six shots behind leader Rory McIlroy.
And he was not the only one to struggle. A three-over par day was even more miserable for world number two Jon Rahm, who tested the best of the game.
Still, Scheffler was quite excited after the round. He knows it could have been worse. Putting a par-saving from 16 feet on the final hole after a wet tee shot took some of the pressure off.
“It’s going to make my food taste a little bit better,” Scheffler said.
Only then can he remove the salty-tasting sweat of the afternoon from his mouth.
McIlroy posted his leading score after a morning start, avoiding some of the day’s worst heat and wind on the refurbished Southern Hills course that has hosted eight major tournaments. By the time Schaeffler started, the course was baking to a heat index that pushed 90 degrees and felt every part of it in hot blasts of air.
But Schaeffler didn’t complain about the conditions or the course. Tough conditions are to be expected, and they will get their chance to bounce back with a start on Friday.
“It was very fair. There is definitely no catch with the setup. The course is very challenging,” he said.
Schaeffler looked ready to kickstart his round with an eagle on par-5 fifth, and it was time to attack the leaderboard. But he returned at number nine.
A birdie on the 10th set the table for a run through the same hole where McIlroy had built his charge in the morning with four consecutive runs. But Schaeffler couldn’t match it and instead found himself in the gauntlet of four bogeys in the last seven holes of his round.
But again, the 25-year-old acted positively.
“I’m still very disappointed with how I played the last nine, but overall the 1-over game was as bad as I did today, I haven’t ruled myself out of the tournament,” Scheffler said.
Rahm is probably not so optimistic about the weekend. His bad day started with a bogey on the first hole. Others also struggled.
World number three Colin Morikawa scored 72 and Jordan Spiethe scoredThe career Grand Slam chaser played with McIlroy and had to see the Northern Irishman on top while he faded to 2 over 72 with three bogeys in the last four holes.
Schaeffler will take aim at what he can do on Friday to recover. Go on the weekend and see what happens.
“I feel like I’m back six times now, so six shots in three days isn’t really a big deal,” Scheffler said. “I’m definitely back a lot further than I expected to be. This is one of those golf courses where you can have a really great round.”
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