Woodland pips Fowler to take early lead in St. Louis

European Tour Official Release

Round One Report

Gary Woodland went on a stunning back-nine birdie blitz to open up a one-shot lead after the first round of the US PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club.

Rickie Fowler had set the target at five under in the morning and it looked like he would carry the lead into day two as the chasing pack got close but then fell back as the afternoon wore on.

At one over after seven holes, Woodland looked an unlikely challenger, but he birdied seven of his last 11 holes to sign for a six under par 64 and edge ahead of his fellow American.

Fowler came home in 31 to get to five under as he continues his search for an elusive victory in one of golf’s big four events, having finished second at the Masters Tournament earlier this year for this third top two finish in a Major Championship.

American Zach Johnson and South African Brandon Stone sit a further shot back at four under tied for third. Stone, currently 16th in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex following his victory at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open, shot five birdies on his way to his lowest ever round at a Major, and the lowest opening round at the US PGA Championship by a South African since Ernie Els in 2004.

World Number One Dustin Johnson was at three under for the day alongside fellow Americans Pat Perez, Stewart Cink, Austin Cook, Brian Gay, Ollie Schniederjans, and Kevin Kisner, as well as 2015 Champion Jason Day, England’s Justin Rose and Ian Poulter, and Belgium’s Thomas Pieters.

Player Quotes

Gary Woodland: “I probably pressed a little bit too much early. I’ve been hitting the golf ball beautifully coming into this week, close to home, I have a million friends and family out here, which is pretty cool. I kind of settled in there really on five and outside of that I hit the golf ball beautifully.

“I made a big par putt there on five, and it was the first time I’ve really seen a putt go in, in a while, which was nice. I made a lot of changes the last couple of weeks seeking the help of Phil Kenyon on Saturday of the Open Championship. I was hitting it so good and just got nothing out of it. He showed me some things that he saw that I was doing wrong in my stroke and it really took the last week and a half to, a lot of time on the putting green, and I’ve started to feel pretty comfortable this week and it was nice to see results today.”

Rickie Fowler: “I’m definitely happy about the start. Felt like I kept it very stress free, hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens. Just played within myself. Didn’t try to do anything special or get anything extra up there today. I’m definitely happy with the start, and we’ll see if we can keep that rolling. Because I know the last few events we haven’t exactly put together four consecutive rounds like we need to and want to. This is a different week.”

Brandon Stone: “Got the ball in the hole as good as I could possibly do. Hit it really well. The rhythm was spectacular and the swing. Just putted beautifully. Rolled the ball so nicely. Managed to see a lot of the lines quite easily out there today, which could be quite tricky, especially with a little grain on the surface. I do like the putting green with a little bit of grain. Gets my eye a little bit more. But, yeah, 66 on a Thursday of the US PGA, if you had told me that a month ago, I would have said you’re kind of smoking something.”

Ian Poulter: “Round was good. Off to a real flying start and a bit of a momentum stopper, on the 17th hole. Had 105 yards, hit it just not quite hard enough. Didn’t get up and down from the front right greenside bunker, which led to a bogey there, which was a little frustrating. Made a good up and down par on two after hitting hybrid in the hazard. And the only other bogey was on the long four where I drove in a fairway bunker and couldn’t quite reach the green, so didn’t get up and down from 70 yards. But the rest of the round was very solid. I feel pretty comfortable.

“It’s been a good run. I mean, the only disappointment was obviously at The Open. So with that said, putting myself on the board is great. It’s great for your adrenaline. It’s great for your mindset. It’s good for your confidence levels, and it keeps edging me closer to making The Ryder Cup team. There’s definitely a lot of energy to come from that.”

Justin Rose: “I was able to hit every shot as I wanted to today. It’s interesting. I walked nine holes both days. So I haven’t hit a bad shot on the golf course. I kind of went out there today and had a very clear intent on what I wanted to do on every hole. Often you can be biased how you play in practice at times, and that can influence the clubs you want to hit off the tee and what you’re comfortable doing. Today I had a bit of a blank canvas to play with, and I felt comfortable on the course.

“The one thing that has hurt me today was my pace on the greens. I found that very difficult. I probably haven’t seen enough putts up and over the ridges. Some of the putts looked very fast to me and they’re not. You have to be very aggressive. I finally got myself to commit to a slow putt on 16. It was an uphill right, a bit like the par I hit on 18, it’s a bit of a weird thing to be playing a foot of break and trying to hit it firm. Often when you’re playing a foot of break, you’re playing quick greens or you’re gently letting it break. And here you’re playing a lot of break at times and trying to hit it firm. It’s a tough one to commit to.”

Author: Jhavelka