Ole­sen grabs early lead on tough day of scor­ing in PGA

North Bay Nugget - - SPORTS - Doug Fer­gu­son

CharLotte, N.C. — thor­b­jorn ole­sen of den­mark rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt on the fi­nal hole for a 4-un­der 67 and a oneshot lead among early starters in a Pga Cham­pi­onship that was mak­ing it hard for Jor­dan spi­eth and just about ev­ery­one else at Quail hol­low.

Not since 2010 at Whistling straits has a score as high as 67 led the open­ing round of the Pga Cham­pi­onship.

spi­eth was happy to get through with a 72 in his quest to be­come the sixth player to com­plete the ca­reer grand slam. u.s. open cham­pion Brooks Koepka fared much bet­ter with a 68 and was among those one shot be­hind.

But even Koepka had a hard time mak­ing putts on new Ber­muda greens that were firm and so fast that play­ers had to be de­fen­sive.

“any­thing un­der par on this golf course is a good score,” ole­sen said.

Koepka had birdie putts in­side 15 feet on his open­ing six holes and con­verted only one of them. he wasn’t the only player strug­gling to make them.

“if they get about a foot faster, they are kind of un­playable with the pin place­ments,” Koepka said. “th­ese slopes are just get­ting big­ger and big­ger with the speed of the greens and the grain. if you miss it just by a cou­ple feet from the flag, you can hit a great shot in there and wind up 30 yards away.” it showed on the leader­board. No one man­aged to post any­thing bet­ter than 67, and ole­sen needed a long putt on the 18th hole for that.

greyson Mur­ray, a North Carolina na­tive who hit the open­ing shot, was the first to post 68. he was joined by gary Wood­land, Koepka and Chris stroud, who qual­i­fied for the Pga Cham­pi­onship only by win­ning last week at the Bar­racuda Cham­pi­onship.

Paul Casey was among those at 69, while dustin John­son, Ja­son day and hideki Mat­suyama were in the large group at 70.

the ad­van­tage of warm weather and, for the first time all week, plenty of sun­shine was a slightly drier course that al­lowed the ball to roll. it was a big ad­van­tage to be in the fair­way, and ole­sen had only a 7-iron into 18th green. he played it well out to the left, leav­ing a down­hill putt.

“it was a lit­tle bit of a safe shot into the green,” he said. “that’s what can hap­pen on this golf course. When you play safe into the greens, you give your­self very tricky putts, like the one i had — down­hill, left-to-right. it was very, very fast. But it was just a very good roll. so it was nice to see that one drop.”

John­son, the No. 1 player in the world, broke par for the first time in a ma­jor since the u.s. open last sum­mer at oak­mont, which he won for his first ma­jor. he played in the same group as day, who was headed for an­other poor start un­til he made ea­gle on the par-5 sev­enth, fol­lowed with a birdie and wound up at 70.

“it’s go­ing to test your pa­tience one way or an­other,” Koepka said. “that’s just a ma­jor. you’ve got to stay pa­tient. you can’t make dou­bles out here. that’s the big thing. Make sure the worst score you make is a bo­gey and give your­self a cou­ple of good chances on the easier holes.”

that wasn’t easy for so many oth­ers.

ser­gio gar­cia took a pair of dou­ble bo­geys at the end of the back nine and wound up with a 75. ernie els, in what might be his last Pga Cham­pi­onship, shot 80 for only the sec­ond time in this ma­jor. the first time was at Bel­lerive in 1992.

Ross Kin­nairD/GETTy ImAGES

Thor­b­jorn Ole­sen of Den­mark putts on the 18th hole dur­ing the first round of the 2017 PGA Cham­pi­onship at Quail Hol­low Club on Thurs­day in Charlotte, N.C. Ole­sen fin­ished round one atop the leader­board.

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