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Padraig Harrington had seen enough. After watching playing partner Phil Mickelson rolling back the years whilst rolling in the putts in the first two rounds of the 103rd US PGA Championship here, Europe’s Ryder Cup captain was ready to call history.
“In the position Phil is, I expect him to contend and I wouldn't put it past him being there on top at the end of the weekend,” Harrington said. “He has the bit between his teeth and believes he can do it in these conditions. You know what? Even second would now be a disappointment for Phil.”
Mickelson is 51 next month and if Harrington’s prediction comes to pass, great chunks of golf’s folklore would need rewriting, most notably that he would smash Julius Boros’s record of oldest ever major-winner by more than two years.
Lefty would march into next month’s US Open with his career grand slam dream re-invigorated, having made a mockery of the US Golf Association special exemption it felt obliged to issue last week.
Yet more than any of this, it would give hope to written-off veterans everywhere and act as a bugle call for those with ear-trumpets across the globe. The ancient game would never be quite the same again.
Of course, these are still early days in this, at times, excruciating marathon and on The Ocean Course - providing one of the most all-round demanding major tests that golf has ever witnessed - it is plainly foolish to project forward even a few holes never mind a few days. Especially when the leaderboard is this congested.
On five-under, Mickelson shares the lead with South African Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open Champion, one clear of Brooks Koepka in third with last month’s Masters hero, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama sharing fourth with Oosthuizen's countrymen, Branden Grace and Christiaan Bezuidenhout on three-under.
In all there are 25 within five shots of the halfway pace and these also include reigning US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau on one-under and the defending US PGA Collin Morikawa on level par, alongside reigning Open champion Shane Lowry.
And Britain happens to be promisingly represented in this high-quality logjam. Paul Casey, last year’s runner-up, is on two-under and Martin Laird is on one-under, with Matt Fitzpatrick and Ian Poulter only one further back.
Alas, Rory Mcilroy is not in that number and the 2012 Kiawah champion palpably should be. The Northern Irishman bogeyed the last three holes, which is no disgrace when the wind is blowing into the face, but was nevertheless a huge setback after his sterling work to bounce back from that opening 75.
The critical factor has been his gross ineptitude on the par fives for which he is three-over, nine worse than Mickelson. You do not require DeChambeau's intellect to spot the shortfall for McIlroy, a player who has stacked up millions from devouring the kong holes.
"That's been the big thing," McIlroy said. "If I'd have played those better, I'd have been right up there, but making five bogeys on the par fives is not going to get it done.
After a 72, McIlroy is eight in arrears but knows he is capable of making the required inroads on Saturday to launch a challenge for his major triumph in seven years. Except this does not seem any place to be chasing, with danger lurking on every hole for the over bold. Mickelson’s miraculous recovery game allied to his nous could well prove invaluable.
As world No 1 Dustin Johnson, was missing the cut, crashing out on six-over after a 76 and as quality ball-strikers such as Sergio Garcia and Tommy Fleetwood were also in the exodus off this barrier island - later to be joined by world Nos 2 and 4, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele - so Mickelson utilised his experience to survive the worst intentions of Pete Dye’s wicked creation.
And as the spray came off the Atlantic, Harrington recognised that competitive life is still left in the salty old sea dogs yet.
“Phil finds it easier to compete on this style of course in these conditions,” Harrington said, bemoaning his own late collapse that took him to a 73, but by no means out of the frame on level par.
“It suits somebody who is a 'player', somebody who is thinking. Each day Phil has started badly and has bounced back and played his next nine in five-under. No panic.”
Mickelson actually negotiated the inward half in four-under on Thursday, but as that is the more challenging nine, Harrington can be forgiven for boosting its status. Starting on the 10th on Friday, Mickelson was three-over by the time he reached the first tee, but then reeled off a quintet of red numbers, including a sumptuous iron from 195 yards to three feet on the fourth.
Yet it was the final two holes that best summed up his defiant efforts. On the par-three eighth, his ball unluckily veered off the green and he audibly complained about feeling rushed after his group had been put on the referee’s clock.
No matter, Mickelson performed one of his exquisite par-saving chips and all there was left was to hole a 20-footer for birdie on the ninth, enact one of those short but expressive fist-pumps and the crowds - limited to 10,000 here, but still extremely enthusiastic - were fanatically is his corner once more.
“It was fun to finish like that and to have that type of support is special,” he said, trademark grin beaming at its brightest. “I had to be patient, but I was able to make a few birdies.”
As Mickelson was talking, he was informed that Grace had double-bogeyed the 17th and that he was the outright leader.
“Sir, if you were to tell me that like on Sunday night, I'd really enjoy it, but right now there's a lot of work to do,” Mickelson said. “I’m just happy to be going into the weekend with an opportunity.”
Indeed, the fact he is in the final group seems fantastical enough. Without a single top-20 finish on the PGA Tour in nine months, or a top 10 in the majors in almost five years, Mickelson has fallen to his lowest ranking in more than three decades.
There have been two wins on the US Seniors Tour since he turned 50, but that has only made it yet more straightforward to herald the final whistle on a garlanded career. What Phil The Thrill would give to silence that shrill. The name of the game is survival and there is surely no more appropriate layout to prove that it is all about being the last man standing.
How tough is the Ocean Course? Well, consider Poulter’s fate. Third here behind McIlroy in 2012, the 45-year-old gallantly advanced to four-under with four birdies and an eagle in his first 11 holes, but then his charge was cruelly arrested with four bogeys down the brutal, wind-against stretch. Yet Poulter was uncharacteristically not all that disheartened.
“I got on to the 13th and there was a scoreboard and it was ironic, - 'Ian Poulter is six-under for the day through 12 holes and is chasing down the course-record 65’,” he said. “I just started laughing to myself. Who in the world would write that with those last five holes to play?”
Poulter was correct; a 70 in this severe examination is commendable regardless of how it is compiled. Close enough, if tough enough and astute enough.
Big putt holed by Koepka
He rolls in the save from some 10 feet or so to remain at four-under. McIlroy taps in to stay at two-over.
A cracking day comes to close and the leaderboard is packed.
McIlroy's second bounced clear of the thickest stuff and he has given himself a chance of saving par. Been an untidy finish. His playing partner Justin Thomas has seen a birdie putt slip by and will miss the cut on six-over. Koepka tried to putt his third from off the green and ran it well past.
Horror story for McIlroy on the 18th
He tried to fade his long iron but flipped it over to the left and could well be deep in the hay.
On the 18th
Brilliant drives from Koepka and McIlroy. DeChambeau hit a splendid tee shot on the par three 17th over the pond but settles for a par.
Bogeys at the 17th for McIlroy
He fails to get up and down from sand and falls back to two-over. Likewise Koepka whose chip from the left came up well shot. He is now one shot behind.
Oosthuizen makes bogey on the last
The chip shot came up a little shy and the putt slipped past. His first bogey of the day would you believe. Still a wonderful round from the 2010 Open champion, and he is tied for the lead with Mickelson and Koepka.
To the 17th
Koepka steers his tee shot well clear of the water and his ball comes to rest against the collar of rough. McIlroy up next on this long par three, four iron in hand. Pulls it left into the bunker.
A little bold from Oosthuizen
His iron shot on 18 was right on line but it topples over the back of the green. Work to do to save par.
Nasty three putt from McIlroy
He falls back to over-over. There has been a real mixed bag in there today for Rory.
On the 18th, Oosthuizen booms a drive down the right and it catches a piece of the fairway.
Par saved for Oosthuizen
Splashes out and rolls in the par putt from six feet. He retains the sole lead at six-under. Great birdie try from long-range from Koepka at the 16th but he stays at five-under.
Oosthuizen finds sand left of the par three 17th
He faces a testing shot to stay in the sole lead at six-under.
Some short game magic from Koepka on the 15th
A delightful pitch from the right of the green and the par should keep him in a tie for the lead. A long range birdie putt from McIlroy slips by but he stays at level par.
Back at the 13th, Englishman Matt Wallace has chipped in for a birdie to move to two-under.
Oosthuizen still playing with poise
Got up and down from sand to save par on the 15th, and he is safely aboard the green in regulation on the into the wind par five 16th. The putt slips past and the par keeps him at six-under.
Matsuyama making a charge
The Masters champion is looking awfully good. Flirted with the water on 13 to put his approach to within birdie range, and he now moves to four-under and just two behind.
Cracking tee shot at the par three 14th
Koepka fires one right over the flag into the heart of the green. Also a solid shot from McIlroy, safe as houses on the putting surface.
A little trouble for Oosthuizen
He faces four really tough holes to finish. His long iron into the par four 15th fives left into the greenside bunker. Pars for Koepka and McIlroy back at the 13th.
What a break for Koepka
He pushes his second into the treacherous 13th and it was a roll or two away from toppling over the sleeper into the canal. Those are the pieces of good fortune you sometimes look back on when the trophy is in your hand on Sunday...
Hovland slipped up on the same hole in the group in front, making double bogey six.
Another birdie for Koepka
He joins Oosthuizen at six-under. I did not foresee scores this low in the afternoon. Matsuyama has also picked up another shot to reach three-under. No birdie for McIlroy whose putt on the 12th slipped past.
Excellent approach from McIlroy on the 12th
A pitching wedge from 147 to within birdie range. DeChambeau hit an errant tee shot on the 11th but should escape with par. Oosthuizen got up and down from left of 13 to stay at six-under.
Koepka follows McIlroy in with a lob wedge and will have a putt to join Oosthuizen.
EAGLE for Koepka
The second on his card today, pours another one in from 20 feet. Koepka is now ominously positioned at five-under. Tied with Mickelson and one behind Oosthuizen.
Birdie for McIlroy at 11
Solid two putt and this has been a good battling display to get back to level par. Just six shots behind with so much golf to play.
Koepka and McIlroy both find the par five 11th in two
McIlroy got away with a loose drive to the right but he took advantage with a fine shot from the waste area. Koepka found the surface with a nine iron from 200 yards .
Oosthuizen is your new leader
Another exhibition of ball-striking down the par four 12th and he converts the birdie putt from around 10 feet. He reaches six-under and leads by one.
Another birdie for Oosthuizen
He makes four on the par five 11th and Mickelson finally has company at five-under. Given the breeze and the vast amount of sand out there, perhaps we should not be surprised the Mexicans are doing well.
McIlroy scrambles for par at the 10th
He had a horrible stance with the ball well below his feet in the rough, but muscled it through into the back bunker. Splashed out to within three feet or so and cleaned up. Hovland has found the par five 11th in two, a chance to improve on his total of two-under.
-5 Mickelson F
-4 Oosthuizen 11
-3 Koepka 9, DeCaambeau 9, Grace F, Bezuidenhout F.
Appliance of science
Bryson De Chambeau has not been featured heavily on the coverage but his six pars and three birdies on the front nine have propelled him up to three-under.
At the ninth Rory rolls in a 40ft putt for birdie that puts him two-under for the day and +1 for the tournament. Genuine birdie chances ahead at the next three holes.
He may need them as insurance for the closing hurdles.
The projected cut is havering closer to five-over.
Two steps back
One forward for Tyrrell Hatton after a double bogey seven at the 11th he drains a fine birdie putt at the 12th to move back up to -1 alongside Welwyn Garden City's Tom Lewis who birdied the 11th and 14th (after starting his second round at the 10th).
The holes from seven to 12
Are where the wind is in the players' favour and birdies can be made. Bryson DeChambeau kicks the run off with a birdie at the seventh to move up to -2.
Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama also makes birdie and, having birdied the six, moves to one stroke behind DeChambeau on one-under.
Koepka 'balances the books'
With an eagle at the seventh to move back up to -3, where he is joined by Paul Casey who rattles in his birdie putt on 11.
Westwood birdies the seventh
And he moves up to level par. It's been a good half hour for the English contenders. All that links golf is good education for this breeze.
Matt Wallace has made a hat-trick of birdies at three, four and five to join Casey and Hatton in two-under. He was third at the PGA in 2019 and said this week: "Majors wise, the PGA is my best result and that was important in the sense I needed that result to put a stop to what people thought of me. There was this perception I was winning on the European Tour but couldn’t do it in the big events and, so, to come out third at the PGA that was a bit of a, 'there we go, I can do it'. Now I think people wouldn’t be that surprised if I was up there again in this week’s PGA Championship.
Birdie for Rory
At the sixth and he climbs up to two-over. At the same hole Koepka three putts for a bogey five and drops to -1.
The English challengers
A birdie at the seventh puts Paul Casey up to two-under alongside Tyrrell Hatton who also made birdie at seven.
The projected cut has moved out to four-over.
Tringale in a tangle
Cameron Tringale was three-under after his second hole (the 11th) today but made a triple bogey six at the 14th, a quintuple bogey 10 at the par-five 16th, a quadruple bogey seven at the par three 17th and, some relief, a plain bogey at eighteen. That's a 13-stroke swing from three-under to to +10 in five holes.
Is the only player making solid, forward progress. His birdie at the sixth takes him up to four-under, one behind Mickelson who had more favourable wind and made the most of it with a hugely impressive 69. Bradley, Koepka, Laird and Wise have all dropped shots leaving Bezuidenhout and Grace on -3.
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Hovland's fast start disintegrates
With a double bogey at the fourth after going into the bunker off the tee. He drops from four under to one under in the space of three holes.
McIlroy picks up a par at the fourth to stay at +2.
Brooks Koepka misreads his birdie putt at the third and has to settle for a third successive par, which is all McIlroy can card after leaving his putt a couple of inches high on the left in the fierce breeze.
Forgot to mention that Poulter made par at the eighteenth to finish on level par. Luis Oosthuizen has birdied the first and the fourth to move up to three-under and a share of second place with Hovland, Koepka, Bradley, Grace, Bezuidenhout, Laird and Wise.
One hole ahead
And Hovland drops a shot at the third to drop back into the pack at -3. When McIlroy gets on to the green at the third he has given himself a chance for instant redress with a birdie putt.
And is about to take away, McIlroy bogeying the second after poor second and third shots, first into the bunker and then on to a swale. He had 20ft to scramble par but pushed his putt to the right. After knocking in the bogey hr picked up his ball and hoyed it in frustration. Back to three-over for McIlroy. Koepka makes par and stays on three-under.
Hovland on his own at -4
Martin Laird has followed his pair of birdies with a bogey at his third, the 12th, leaving Hovland all alone at -4 after the Norwegian sank a horribly wobbly par-saving putt at his second following a scramble out of sand and a brilliant fourth to 8ft.
Another birdie for Laird
Who now moves into a share of second place with Viktor 'Stoned Rory' Hovland on four-under after back-to-back birdies on his first two holes.
And speaking of Holywood's finest, Rory McIlroy starts with a birdie and moves up to two-over.
On the first tee with Brooks Koepka. And both nail their drives straight up the middle.
Perhaps Spieth will live to fight another day
On four-over par.
Another dropped shot from Poulter
On the 17th means he is now on even par after four bogeys from his last five holes.
Jordan Spieth has missed a tiddler for par on 18 and, crucially, the bogey takes him to +4, one stroke above the projected cut. His putting was white hot at the start of the round.
Martin has birdied the first and moves up to -3. His back nine yesterday was quite the ride: birdie, par, bogey, birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie, bogey, bogey.
The face of Martin Laird. The face of Martin Laird.
Mick Cleary on Lefty's great leap
Has made a birdie at the second which takes him to two-under and the leading Brit alongside Martin Laird. He would have been out on his own among compatriots had his 18ft birdie effort at the third lip out.
Not a great deal of movement at the moment
The projected cut remains at +3, which would mean curtains for Dustin Johnson, currently eight-over with three to play, Matt Kuchar at nine-over with three to play, Tommy Fleetwood (+7) and Sergio Garcia (+5 with three to play).
Grace ends with a whimper
Following his double bogey at 17, he bogeys the 18th to drop back into the pack at three-under. Ian Poulter also drops a shot at 16 and, with the toughest two holes to come, his one-under looks in jeopardy.
Harrington finishes on level par
Physically I've been able to perform to play the shots, but I haven't been able to be as present or sharp mentally to visualise the shots I want to play. Meditation has been been a big part of me being able to play the shots I want. It's gotten more difficult as I've got older to focus. Your mind is like a muscle, you have to exercise. That's what I've been doing, some days playing [as many as] 40-45 holes to make sure I can concentrate longer than just 18.
Grace drops two shots at 17
And falls back to second place at four-under.
Folks, we have a new leader.
-5: Mickelson (18)
-4: Grace (17)
-3: Bezuidenhout (15), Streelman (15), Bradley, Hovland, Koepka, Wise
Grace in the drink
The leader hits his tee shot at the 17th into the water, takes a drop and has a 12ft putt for bogey. If he makes it Mickelson will share the lead. If he doesn't, the 50-year-old will head the field alone.
Poulter stops the rot with a good par at 15.
Mickelson goes in as clubhouse leader with a superb 15-footer drained into the cup for birdie at the 18th and he will get a great night's sleep on five-under. Harrington makes par on 18 to book in for bed and breakfast for the next two days on even par.
And Grace saves par on 16 to stay one stroke ahead.
Another dropped stroke for Poulter
After a decent salvage job with his wedge, he misses the 12-footer for par and he drops down to two-under.
Poulter in more trouble
Shouting 'No!' as he bursts the green with his tee shot at the par-three 14th. Bezuidenhout has joined him on three-under after making bogey at 14.
Poulter drops back to three-under after cursing himself for his first two shots at the 13th, driving off the fairway and getting his clubhead partially caught in the long filth. His putting almost bailed him out but his par-saving 25-footer crept a foot left of the hole.
Conners, who was the overnight leader on five-under, birdied his 16th and 18th to go into the clubhouse on two-under.
Amazing effort from Mickelson
At the par five fifteenth. His second shot left him 55ft for eagle which he almost made and then tapped in the birdie putt to climb to four-under, a position he shares with Poulter, Bezuidenhout (who birdied 11) and now Streelman (a birdie at 13).
A hat-trick of Poulter birdies
He is six-under for the day and four-under for the tournament now after birdies at nine, 10 and 11, followed by a superb drive at the 12th. Streelman, meanwhile, is one stroke back at three-under following a birdie at 12.
Carlos Ortiz is also on the march with an eagle at 11 and a birdie at 13. he, too, is on three-under.
Grace broadens his lead back to two strokes
All thanks to his iron [lay which left him with a tiddler for birdie at 13.
Meanwhile Mickleson, who made a dog's breakfast of the last holes of his front nine with bogeys at 17 and 18, has birdied the second, fourth and fifth to climb back to three-under. Padraig Harrington, playing with him, has begin his back nine with bogey, birdie, par, bogey, par. The roaring wind is making par very tricky indeed.
Jordan Spieth has five gears in reverse
Three successive bogeys at his ninth, 10th and 11th (17th, 18th and 1st) have ruined the good work that took him up to level-par after yesterday's 73.
In very strong wind has moved to sole share of second place, one stroke behind his countryman Grace, with a birdie at the par five 11th, nailing a 15ft putt.
For Joaquin Niemann who has made birdies at the seventh, eighth and 12th following a bogey and a double bogey in his first five holes. He's back to where he started at two-under.
Sky is currently taking a break from live coverage for some chat, the kind of ideas producers have with no thought to what people actually want from live sports coverage.
Ian Poulter has rolled in a 15-footer for birdie at the 10th and joins the group tied for second at three-under
Some start today by Poulter
In his ceaseless quest to earn selection for the Ryder Cup, his birdie at the ninth means he has shot 32 by the turn, four-under for today and two-under for the tournament. Kevin Streelman, a Duke alumni, like Richard Nixon and Art Wall Jnr et al, is one stroke ahead at three-under after birdies at seven and nine. Streelman is a friend of Donald Trump who gave him a gift of a bag of golf clubs in 2018. He has failed to make the cut in four of his previous PGAs - he'll lift his average to .50 after today.
Just as I typed that full stop, Streelman rejoined Poulter on two-under with a putt into the wind that stayed up on the front lip and cost him a shot.
Remarkable effort from Lowry at the 16th
His wild drive sent him off with his bucket and spade to the beach but he managed to get up and down for par and the Open champion stays on level-par.
Rahm duly bogeyed 18
Ruining a front nine that began with two birdies and five pars. It ended with a double followed by a bogey. He goes to the first tee on +1 in a hot funk.
Branden Grace has chipped in at the 10th from the bunker to move to -5, two strokes ahead of the pack. The pin too the brunt of the ball's momentum and it rattled into the cup.
Of Springfield, Mass is playing his third PGA, having failed to make the cut in his previous two efforts, and has moved to within a stroke of the lead with back-to-back birdies at 11 & 12.
Poulter on the march
Ian Poulter chips in for eagle from the bunker to the left of the pin to move to one-under.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout eagles seven with a 45 footer that broke from the left. The 26-year-old Jo'burg native, who won the South African Open in December, moves up to a tie of second with three-under.
The Rahm meltdown is beginning to gather pace. You could strip wallpaper with the steam coming out of his ears after double-bogeying 17 by virtue of a pitch into the drink and an obligatory drop which took him to even par. His second at 18 which flew right has him shouting a Meldrewesque, 'I don't believe it'. And then he bends the shaft of his iron as if to snap it before thinking better of it.
Grace continues as solo leader
After making par at the eighth. Mickelson, who spent an age lining up a five-footer at 18 to complete his front nine, pinged it to the left of the hole. He drops further back to level-par while Harrington saves his par to go through the turn on two-under.
Mickleson drop a shot
Mickelson at the 17th could not emulate Spieth at the 14th with an epic par saving putt following an erratic drive that left him on the lip of the bunker. Lefty's dropped shot takes him down to one-under. Spieth, two holes behind, has a white-hot putter that keeps him at level-par.
A new leader
Jason Day, who makes up the three-ball with Harrington and Mickelson, had been having a better day after Thursday's 74, found the sand at the 17th and it took him two shots to get out. He's going to find it difficult to salvage a bogey.
Harrington's birdie putt at 17 snakes from left to right and just sneaks past on the right lip. He satys on two-under. Day ends up with a double bogey after a bogey at 16 to move back to +4.
Branden Grace had a 30-footer for eagle on the seventh and although he went for it, effectively lags up for birdie to take him into sole possession of the lead at four-under.
After narrowly missing a birdie putt on 16, as did his playing partner Phil Mickelson, has given himself a great chance of a birdie at the par-three 17th with a fantastic tee shot into the wind and on to the heart of the green. The three-times major winner is in sensational form.
Good place for your first par
Corey Conners makes par on 17 and stays on two-under. Webb Simpson, who was relatively short-priced to win here yesterday morning, has just double-bogeyed the 13th to move to +4, two shots outside the current projected cut of two-over.
Some redemption for Conners
The day one leader started his second round with bogey-birdie-bogey-bogey-bogey-bogey, but has grabbed a shot back at the par-five 16th, sinking a 28ft putt to climb back up to two-under.
Two in succession for Jordan Spieth at the 11th and 12th. Open champion Shane Lowry matches him at the 11th and moves up to -1 and Tommy Fleetwood delights Paul McGinley by chipping in for a birdie at 14. He is now two-over. Mickelson, by contrast, had a 12-footer for birdie at 15 and smeared it past on the right.
Harrington's caddie has a blast at a chatty spectator for talking while his employer was putting for par. 'Shut up, just shut up,' he says unequivocally.
Johnson in trouble
Dustin Johnson has a monstrous putt for birdie at the 11th. He was on the edge of the green in two and was probably expecting to bag a birdie to reduce the six-stroke deficit to the leaders on three-under. But he had trouble chipping it out of the thick fringe and left himself with 30ft, getting it withing 6ft but not closer.
Conners' hellish start continues
With maybe 6ft for par on the 15th, he sends it to the left of the hole and prolongs the slump down to -1. Padraig Harrington, whose 24 putts yesterday was the best for the day, has added a birdie at the 13th to move to two-under.
Mickelson remains two-under
Mickelson sinks a tricky par putt to stay at two-under, one back of the leaders. He's lurking the veterean American
Woodland just misses birdie
Great effort on a long putt from Woodland for birdie, but he will have to settle for par as it skips just to the left. He's two-under, one off the lead
Mickelson recovers from his dip
Tremendous recovery shot from Mickelson, after taking a drop he smacks a wedge to within a few inches of the hole. He'll only drop one shot as a result.
Conners drops another shot
That's four bogeys on the opening five, with no pars. He falls down to two-under and is off the top spot of the leaderboard. Very nervy start from him
Mickelson goes into the drink
Mickelson with a poor second shot, he's in the water on the fifth hole. He will drop out of the eight-way tie for the lead at three under.
Spieth drops a shot
Spieth bogeys on the first, he can't recover from a slightly wayward tee shot
Dustin Johnson tees off
The world no.1 has work to do after a very poor round yesterday. He drills his opening drive right down the middle
Conners bogeys for the third time
Conners bogeys again on the fourth hole, he will drop down to three under to enter a five-way tie for the lead. He's two over for the day through four holes, poor start from the Canadian
Mickelson misses chance to tie the lead
Phil Mickelson misses from 5 feet and is forced to settle for par. He could've taken the lead if he'd sunk it, but he'll remain three under.
A loose shot puts Conners in trouble on the fourth, he's now on for a likely two-putt and his third bogey of the day
Delicious chip from Rahm!
On his third shot on the par 5, John Rahm gets within two inches of the hole to set up a routine birdie putt. Great short play there
Jordan Spieth gets underway
The big-hitting American is chasing the career grand slam if he can win in South Carolina this weekend.
His first shot ends up in the rough down the left of the fairway.
Webb Simpson tees off
Mickelson drills his second shot to within 12 feet of the whole, he's on for a birdie at the third. Good start from the veteran American.
Webb Simpson now teeing off, his first shot is down the right side of the fairway.
Rose with a nice par putt
Rose two-putts at the second hole to take par, nice shot, it was outside the dustbin lid.
Niemann birdies at the second
Simple putt for the Chilean, he picks up a shot to move two under.
Meanwhile Conners misses a simple putt for par at three and he's back to four under
Rahm with an early birdie
John Rahm picks up a shot with an early birdie
Conners with an excellent putt
The Canadian sinks a 30-ft putt to get a birdie and take himself back to 5 under. He's even for the day through two holes
Rahm, Reed and Fleetwood teeing off
John Rahm is chasing his first USPGA Championship as his opening drive is drilled right down the fairway, lovely start.
Fleetwood hooks his shot slightly to the left into the rough and Reed follows him down that side.
Corey Conners drops shot on the first
An opening bogey for the early leader. The Canadian has given back a shot after his excellent 67 on day one.
Things are looking good along the Atlantic Coast of South Carolina at the moment, the sun is shining, though there is a slight breeze early on.
Life about to get even tougher
Expect the PGA of America, which sets up the Ocean Course for the USPGA Championship, to move a host of tees farther back for Round 2 today.
The Kiawah Island course, the longest ever for a major championship, played at 7,660 yards for the opener - 178 yards shorter than the scorecard - and a little more wiggle room is the last thing a field that's already wobbling is likely to welcome.
Yesterday good shots were rewarded, bad ones predictably punished and the Ocean Course - reliably backed up by stiff breezes off the Atlantic - came out of it looking like anything but a pushover.
Canadian Corey Conners posted a 5-under 67, but it came on a day when the field averaged 75 and a quartet of pre-tournament picks landed right on that number or worse: Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas (75), Dustin Johnson (76) and Daniel Berger (78).
For all that, no one's feelings were badly bruised . except maybe Bryson DeChambeau's. He recovered from four straight bogeys to finish at even-par 72, but appeared still out of sorts afterward. Recounting his round in a press conference. DeChambeau mixed up some holes, acknowledged he struggled with the heat and some bad breaks and found it nerve-wracking trying to constantly factor in the wind speed and direction, even on short putts.
The woe-is-me litany continued until a reporter, citing DeChambeau's practice and preparation fetish, seemed genuinely concerned about his health, asking, "Are you close to a point of exhaustion?"
"No, I'm not like at wit's end or anything . but this golf course takes it out of you," DeChambeau said. "This is the most difficult golf course that I've played on Tour, and that is a straight-up fact for me."
Conners chose a simpler practice regimen and it paid off handsomely. He drew up a plan on where to attack the course and where to take extra precautions, then banked on the winds following the same pattern they had during practice rounds. When that piece fell into place, the 29-year-old Canadian found his shots both into the wind and against it behaving pretty much the way he expected.
"You can't fall asleep out there on any holes," Conners said. "It's very challenging. I was fortunate to have a good day. Made it the least stressful on myself as possible."
Good thing, too, since plenty of stress is lined up behind him. A half-dozen players, including majors specialist Brooks Koepka, were two shots back at 69, and mixed into the group of eight players at 70 were defending champion Collin Morikawa, former U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland and improbably, perhaps, 50-year-old Phil Mickelson.
Lefty started 3-over through six holes, but made up a lot of ground with a 32 on the back nine, where the field averaged 38.
"It's very fair," Mickelson said, "even though it's tough."
At the par-3 14th, Jordan Spieth, who wound up shooting 73, could be heard pleading with his tee shot to stay on the putting surface: "Sit! Sit, sit, sit, sit, sit, sit, sit, sit. PLEASE!"
"It's there," someone on the tee box reassured him. But a heartbeat later, aided by the wind, his ball keeps rolling, slides off the back of the green and down into a swale.
"Damn," Spieth says the second after that, "you've got to be kidding me."
Hardly. Yet that was far from the strangest moment of the day. That belonged to Sebastian Munoz, who was hardly the only golfer to pull his tee shot well left and off the 18th fairway. The difference is that he had to retrieve his from a plastic trash bag set up in front of the grandstand on that side.
Munoz promptly handed the ball to a nearby spectator, took a free drop and made par with his replacement ball. As it turns out, because the right side of the 18th fairway is protected by a bunker complex, hitting a tee shot into the grandstand and taking that same free drop became a popular option.
"I wasn't trying to hit it in there by any means, but definitely from that up tee (in use Thursday), it's in play," said former PGA champion Keegan Bradley, who shot 69. "I feel bad for all those people up there. They'd better have their hard hats on today. They're going to be firing them in there all day."