The 100th PGA Championship is underway, and American Gary Woodland is in the lead, taking control of the leaderboard from Rickie Fowler late in the afternoon with a six-under 64. Here’s a breakdown, with the big questions answered.
Who the heck is Gary Woodland?
Look, it’s OK if you haven’t heard much about Gary Woodland. He’s got three wins on the PGA Tour, yes, most recently earlier this year at the lunatic playpen that is the Waste Management Open. But he hasn’t made a whole lot of noise on the big stages; his best finish in majors is a T12, notched at the PGA in 2011 and the British Open in 2016. He’s local-ish; he played his college golf at the University of Kansas, and if he stays in the lead, you can expect a Jayhawk contingent to try to cross Missouri for the tournament.
Can Rickie win this?
Fowler, a perpetual major bridesmaid, is once again at the top of a leaderboard at one of the year’s biggest tournaments, carding a 5-under 65 in the morning that held up for most of the day. And once again, the questions swirl: Can Rickie win? Will he take this major down? Fowler knows the questions are coming and he sidesteps them with ease. He knows he won’t quiet them until he actually wins one of these damn things, which he certainly could do. His best finishes in the PGA are a T3 at Valhalla in 2015 and a T5 at Quail Hollow last year; he’ll need a strong performance to improve on those.
Who could catch the leaders?
South African Brandon Stone is two strokes back of Woodland; nobody else is any better than 3-under. But in the mix are major winners like Zach Johnson, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson, as well as perpetual threats like Ian Poulter and Kevin Kisner. Someone’s going to go low, and there are a whole lot of players who could make life a little warm for the leaders if they do.
Are Tiger/Phil/Spieth out of it already?
Not quite, but they’ll have to do some work to get inside, or stay inside, the cut line of Top 70 and ties. Tiger Woods started the day with a double bogey-bogey, then spent the rest of his round scrapping to get back to even. Spieth also double-bogeyed his first hole, then battled back to finish at +1. Phil Mickelson wasn’t quite so lucky; he carded two double bogeys en route to a +3 finish. The cut line would have fallen at +1 and better after Thursday, and it’s certain to shift plenty on Friday.
How’s the weather impacting the tournament?
Several observers, including CBS’s Peter Kostis, suggested that the deluge of rain Tuesday, which washed out some necessary practice time and softened the greens, may have had an impact on Thursday’s play since players didn’t have the opportunity to test the course. If that’s true, expect some better scoring on Friday as players get accustomed to the speed of the greens. There’s no rain in the forecast for early Friday, though late in the afternoon some thunderstorms could roll in.
Friday tee times
Here’s a look at the featured tee times for Friday. (For a full list, click here.)
(All times Central)
7:28 a.m.: Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott
7:50 a.m.: Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari
8:01 a.m.: Gary Woodland, Kevin Kisner, Sergio Garcia
8:12 p.m.: Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose
1:04 p.m.: Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, Ian Poulter
1:26 p.m.: Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Keegan Bradley
1:48 p.m.: Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods
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