Thor­b­jorn Ole­sen and Kevin Kis­ner share the first-round lead with 4-un­der-par 67s.

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Doug Ferguson

CHAR­LOTTE, N.C.» Jor­dan Spi­eth be­gan his quest for the ca­reer Grand Slam by not mak­ing a putt longer than 5 feet. What helped was that Quail Hol­low pun­ished just about ev­ery­one at some point Thurs­day in the 99th PGA Cham­pi­onship.

Kevin Kis­ner and Denmark’s Thor­b­jorn Ole­sen emerged as the top sur­vivors on a course with some of the fastest, scari­est putting sur­faces the PGA Cham­pi­onship has seen. And both had to watch lengthy birdie putts creep into the cup on the 18th hole to share the lead at 4-un­der-par 67.

For all the talk about this 7,600-yard course fa­vor­ing the big hit­ters, the short­est club in the bag turned out to be just as valu­able.

“Any­time you have a putt down grain, down­hill ... we just tap it and hope it stops by the hole,” Jon Rahm said af­ter his 70.

Spi­eth is among the best put­ters in golf, es­pe­cially from long range. On con­sec­u­tive holes, he ran long putts some 10 feet by the cup and made bo­geys. He saved his round with two late birdies for a 1-over 72 and still was only five shots be­hind.

The 24-year-old Texan would be­come the sixth — and youngest — player to com­plete the Grand Slam if he were to win the PGA Cham­pi­onship on Sun­day.

U.S. Open cham­pion Brooks Koepka led five play­ers at 3-un­der 68. Koepka missed a half-dozen putts from 12 feet or closer.

Rickie Fowler made plenty of birdies, and he needed them to off­set his triple bo­gey on the sixth hole, and shot a 2-un­der 69.

Rory McIl­roy, the bet­ting fa­vorite com­ing into the tour­na­ment be­cause of his two vic­to­ries at Quail Hol­low, was mo­tor­ing along just fine when he birdied the 10th hole to reach 2-un­der, just two shots be­hind. One swing changed every­thing. He hooked his tee shot into the wa­ter on the reach­able par-4 14th, had to drop in nasty rough and missed a short putt to make a dou­ble bo­gey. He failed to birdie the par-5 15th and closed with three pars for a 72.

Hideki Mat­suyama, Dustin John­son and Jason Day were among those at 1-un­der 70.

Quail Hol­low played to an av­er­age score of 74.7, mak­ing the PGA Cham­pi­onship look like the tough­est test of the year in the four ma­jors.

Spi­eth failed to take ad­van­tage, and while he could ap­pre­ci­ate the greens were tough to putt, he had a good day off the tee. That was his main con­cern.

As for the pres­sure of try­ing to get the fi­nal leg of the Grand Slam?

“I don’t think I was as free rolling as I thought I would be, as you can tell by some frus­tra­tion,” he said. “If I would have shot 1-over and didn’t strike it well and every­thing was av­er­age, it would have been fine. But when I had the chances that I had and I just couldn’t get the ball to go in on the greens, that is when I get the most frus­trated I can get out there.”

At least he was still in the game. Long­time star Phil Mick­el­son failed to make a single birdie — the sec­ond straight ma­jor that has hap­pened — and shot an 8over 79, his worst score ever in the PGA Cham­pi­onship. Ernie Els, who might be play­ing his fi­nal PGA Cham­pi­onship, matched his worst score in the event with an 80. He also shot an 80 when he was 22, play­ing his first one at Bel­lerive in 1992.

Chris O’Meara, The As­so­ci­ated Press

Kevin Kis­ner, hit­ting a tee shot Thurs­day at the 99th PGA Cham­pi­onship, fin­ished the first round five strokes bet­ter than Jor­dan Spi­eth, the 24-year-old Texan who is try­ing to win the fi­nal leg of the Grand Slam.

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