Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

Schauffele equals major record low round with 62 to lead PGA

By admin Jun2,2024


American Xander Schauffele matched the lowest round in major golf history with a nine-under par 62 in Thursday's opening round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla (Patrick Smith)

American Xander Schauffele matched the lowest round in major golf history with a nine-under par 62 in Thursday’s opening round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla (Patrick Smith)

Xander Schauffele matched the lowest round in major golf history on Thursday, firing a nine-under-par 62 to seize the early lead on the opening day of the PGA Championship.

Reigning Olympic champion Schauffele started off the 10th tee and birdied five of his first nine holes, then birdied four more after the turn in a bogey-free round to seize command at Valhalla.

“It feels great, Schauffele said. “It’s just day one but if someone told me I’d shoot nine-under I would have taken it.

“It’s a great start to a big tournament.”

The 30-year-old American reached the clubhouse with a three-stroke lead over US compatriot Tony Finau with Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Scotsman Robert MacIntyre third on 5-under.

Schauffele already shared the record-low round in major golf history with a 62 from the first round of last year’s US Open at Los Angeles Country Club, matched by American Rickie Fowler in the same round and South African Branden Grace at the 2017 British Open at Royal Birkdale.

“I can’t nit-pick. I’ll take a 62 in any major any day,” Schauffele said.

He set a course record at Valhalla, breaking the 63 fired by Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal in the first round of the 2000 PGA Championship.

Olazabal was among several to fire the prior PGA Championship record low of 63, most recently done by Bubba Watson in 2022 at Southern Hills.

Asked where it ranked among his greatest rounds, Schauffele said, “Up there I would say. It’s only day one. But I’m very content with the shots I played and the putts I rolled.”

Schauffele, seeking his first major title, has endured 19 top-10 PGA Tour finishes since last winning at the 2022 Scottish Open.

That includes a humbling loss to a McIlroy fightback last Sunday after dominating the Wells Fargo Championship all week until the final holes.

Schauffele has had 12 top-10 major finishes without a victory, including runner-up efforts at the 2018 British Open and 2019 Masters. He was eighth at the Masters last month.

“I’ve been playing some really solid golf, been having a lot of close calls,” Schauffele said. “Me and my team say why not just keep plugging along.”

Great approaches set up short birdie putts that Schauffele converted with ease.

Schauffele birdied the par-3 11th from inside three feet, sank a 13-foot birdie putt at the par-4 13th, another from just outside 16 feet at 15, one from just past seven feet at 16 and a five-footer to birdie the par-5 18th.

On the front side, Schauffele sank a four-foot putt to birdie the second, a six-footer to save par at the par-3 third, then birdie putts of four feet at the fourth and just inside 10 feet at the fifth.

Schauffele drove the green in two at the par-5 seventh and sank a tap-in birdie.

At the ninth, Schauffele missed a birdie putt of just under 32 feet for a 61 but the ball faded right and he tapped in for 62.

– McIlroy scrambles to 66 –

McIlroy, whose fightback to victory last weekend was described as a “buzzsaw” by Schauffele, battled through his own personal turmoil in the first round, which came less than 48 hours after his shock divorce filing from wife Erica became public.

The four-time major winner, who last won a major 10 years ago at Valhalla, opened with a 66, the back-nine starter making six birdies against a lone bogey. He reeled off three birdies in a row starting at the fifth hole and made clutch seven-foot putts to save par at 16 and 18.

“A little erratic off the tee,” said McIlroy. “But I scrambled well and made some great putts. It wasn’t the greatest 66 but 66 it was.”

American Jordan Spieth, a three-time major winner who would complete a career Grand Slam with a victory at Valhalla, was 2-under through 16 holes.

Five-time major winner Brooks Koepka, the defending champion, eagled the par-5 seventh and birdied eight to stand 4-under through 17. He is among 16 LIV Golf players in the field of 156.

Tiger Woods, a 15-time major champion, fired a 72 with three birdies and four bogeys.

“It was a grind. I didn’t drive it particularly well,” Woods said.

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