Associated Press5 minutes of reading
PITTSFORD, NY — Sweaters one day, umbrellas the next. Nobody knows what to expect at this PGA Championship, except that Scotty Scheffler is locked in on another major and Oak Hill is a formidable test.
Scheffler delivered a mix of birdies and a great recovery from a wet, rough Friday that saw him barely get away with an errant tee shot at the last on the 18th, but certainly didn’t dampen his confidence.
“When you can hang around the lead and stay in position and wait to warm up, it’s a good position,” Scheffler said after a 2-under 68 that gave him a three-way share with Victor Hovland. and Corey Connors.
“I did a good job the first couple of days putting the golf course in front of me and putting it well,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll hit a few more fairways tomorrow than I did today and make it a little easier on myself. But in the end, 2 under was a good round around this place.”
Rain is in the forecast for Saturday, which may not be enough to dampen expectations that Bryson DeCambeau and Brooks Koepka will play together. They were enemies two years ago — remember the “Brooksie” chants directed at DeChambeau — and the relationship was somewhat mended during their time in the Saudi-sponsored LIV Golf League.
It feels like a long time ago, and both hold a prominent place in their minds. DeChambeau shot a 71 and was two back; Koepka scored a 66 and was 3 back.
Connors posted a 68 over a brutal closing stretch on the back nine, giving up just one shot. Howland’s round of 67 had just one bogey.
They were at 5-under 135, with more variety on the horizon. Rain on Saturday, wind on Sunday, the 18 players were separated by five shots.
There were some late charges to go into contention (Kopka with a 31 on the back nine), revive hope (Rory McIlroy with a 69) or simply cut it (John Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas).
For now, Scheffler has his sights set on a Masters champion a year ago and a player who hasn’t finished worse than 12th all year.
Hovland, who shared the 54-hole lead at St. Andrews last summer, is getting used to it, too. He dropped just one shot in his opening 67. It was his 10th consecutive round at the majors when he finished a day inside the top 10 on the leaderboard.
Conners had a 68, building a two-shot lead at one point and having to rely on his short game.
They were two shots clear of DeChambeau and Justin Suh (68).
The leading seven players came from the same side of the draw. Freezing temperatures and frost on the grass delayed them by two hours. They avoided the wind Friday morning, and then the rain caused some fire to spread from Oak Mountain.
“The rain … luckily we didn’t have any wind, so that helped us,” Hovland said. “With that rain, the ball’s gone a little bit. If you’re in the rough, it makes that rough a little bit juicier. At the end of the day, it softens the greens, and you can. Be a hair more aggressive.”
Of course, there were some impressive twists.
Shane Lowry had six birdies over eight holes on a rainy afternoon until closing with a pair of bogeys. He had to settle for a 67, leaving him at 140-under par in a big group and five shots behind, but that was still too much.
That group included club pro Michael Black (70), and it felt like Rory McIlroy hit the ball badly — and sounded a drive on a choice word — and was slightly dismayed when he looked at the leaderboard. Find himself on the range.
“I think as bad as I’ve felt about the golf ball the last couple of days, the fact that I’m only five under … I think that’s a good thing because I know if I can play it. Off the tee, that was the key to my success over the weekend,” McIlroy said. said.
Some players were happy to still be there for the weekend.
Rahm, the Masters champion and world No. 1, opened with a 76. He was running out of holes, one shot over the cut at 5 over, and he rattled off three straight birdies to finish with a 68 and make the cut by one shot.
Spieth walked off the tee at the 14th, hoping he’d get a good birdie look. Then he found a bad lie in a front bunker, his shot sailed over the green, over the boundary fence and landed somewhere on the grounds of Irondequoit Country Club. He somehow saved a bogey and delivered clutch putts — none bigger than a 10-footer on a par on the final hole — to reduce the number.
Now the focus shifts to the top, a mix of major champions, PGA Championship debutants, a PGA Tour rookie and a club professional. They were all within five shots of the lead.
DeChambeau had a rough start, especially on the par-4 sixth hole, which was so difficult that it yielded just three birdies out of 156 players and a 4.75 average score. He was in a greenside bunker, took two shots to get out and made double bogey.
He didn’t make his first birdie until the par-3 11th hole — DeChambeau hit a 6-iron from 248 yards to 6 feet — and had two more birdies before ending up with a bogey.
Then he went to the range as darkness fell.
“I know what to do. I’ve done it before,” said DeChambeau, the 2020 US Open champion on wing foot. “It’s been a few years, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to do it. , and if it’s not my time, it’s not my time. I definitely feel like I’m going in the right direction.”