SAN FRANCISCO (REUTERS) - Former champion Jason Day held the early clubhouse lead at the PGA Championship on Thursday (Aug 6) while Brooks Koepka got his bid for a three-peat off to a solid start and Tiger Woods found success with a new putter in the first major of the Covid-19 era.
Australian Day, who had top-10 finishes in each of his last three starts on the PGA Tour, carded a bogey-free, five-under-par 65 at TPC Harding Park, where the absence of spectators due to the virus gave the event a unique feel.
"There was definitely a lot of momentum coming in off the previous finishes that I've had, three top 10s, which has been nice," Day said, after the lowest first-round score of his major championship career.
"The game feels like it's coming around. I'm pleased with it."
Koepka, Englishman Justin Rose, Xander Schauffele, former world number one Martin Kaymer and Zach Johnson were among a group of eight who were one shot off the early pace in the first major championship since the July 2019 British Open.
Woods, in only his second PGA Tour event since February, struggled off the tee but, thanks to a longer putter that has allowed him to practice more without back pain, was three shots back after a 68 that included five birdies and three bogeys.
"I thought anything today in the red would be good given the forecast... I was able to do it but I didn't think there would be that many guys four under or better," Woods said after his lowest opening round score in a major championship since 2012.
Four-times major champion Koepka, who fell short of a third consecutive US Open title last year, said he was very relaxed during a round in which he made six birdies and two bogeys.
"The majors almost seem like an easier week for me, nine holes pretty much every day in the practice rounds and try to stay off my feet and not do too much," said Koepka.
"I think sometimes guys... practice a little too much."
Among the other early starters, Tony Finau (67) was two shots off the early pace in a group that included 2019 US Open champion Gary Woodland, while Rory McIlroy (70) stumbled early with three consecutive bogeys.
Jordan Spieth, in his latest bid to become the sixth person to complete golf's career Grand Slam with victories in all four major championships, opened with a three-over-par 73.
Among those who went out in the afternoon wave were top-10 golfers Jon Rahm, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and Adam Scott. Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler and Tommy Fleetwood were also among the late starters.