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