After bogeying No. 17, Rory McIlroy slipped in a six-foot putt to save par on the 18th that led to the Northern Irishman giving a small fist pump for a grinding one-under-par 69, a round that could have been worse and that leaves him with a realistic chance at winning. A second straight bogey might have taken the fight out of the struggling McIlroy.
“Obviously got off to fast start,” McIlroy said. “Three birdies in five holes but that last four-hole stretch is pretty tough. All things considered, one under isn’t a bad score.”
The final hole treated Phil Mickelson cruelly. Mickelson's tee shot was in trees, he hit trees, had to chip out to the fairway and ended up with a double-bogey six on the 497-yard par-four 18th hole. He missed a 15-foot putt for bogey and gave him a round of one-over 71 for the day.
Earlier in the day, Tiger Woods also finished with a double bogey for a 71, although it was on No. 9. Woods and Mickelson are ranked first and second in the world.
Adam Scott, ranked No. 5 in the world, had five consecutive birdies on the front nine. The 33-year-old Australian who won the Masters this year said, “I managed to get on a bit of a roll on the front nine. I didn’t even have much putting to do and you have to take advantage when that happens.”
Scott admitted a mid-round weather delay slowed his momentum a bit but said, “There’s nothing to complain about with a 65.”
Mickelson declined to speak to TNT, choosing to head straight to the practice range even as the light disappeared at about 8 p.m. in Rochester, N.Y.
His playing partner, Scott, who briefly held a one-shot lead earlier, needed to make a 12-foot par putt to be tied with Jim Furyk for the first-round lead.
No one left on the course was likely to threaten the leaders.
Some notables who will have to play well Friday to make the cut include Shaun Micheel, who won the PGA Championship in 2003 at Oak Hill but who shot six-over 76 Thursday; Ernie Els, the South African with four major titles in his career who had a four-over 74; and Irishman Padraig Harrington, who also had a 76 and who is a two-time British Open winner and the PGA Championship winner in 2008.
Adam Scott take lead, Lee Westwood one back | 4:25 p.m.
Adam Scott just missed a birdie try at the par-three No. 15 to take a two-shot lead. Phil Mickelson saved par on the same hole with a five-footer to stay at one-under.
Lee Westwood, the Englishman once ranked No. 1 in the world but who has yet to win a major title (he’s finished second at the Masters and British Open and third at the U.S. Open and PGA), finished with a 66.
“I’ve been playing well,” Westwood said. “I pay little attention to the talk about not winning a major yet. I’m driving the ball well. I’m taking the spin off the golf ball. With a golf course like this if you can set the hole up with a good drive, it’s good,” Westwood didn’t have a bogey in his first round.
That left him a shot behind behind Scott, who bogeyed his first hole of the day on the 16th, and Jim Furyk.
Meanwhile, on the 16th, Mickelson’s drive was in the rough and he was heard to say, “It came left?” on his second shot. Could this hole be a bad adventure for Phil? Or a good adventure? It was an OK adventure. He saved par to stay at one-under, four shots behind Scott and Furyk.
Rory McIlroy bogeyed the par-four 17th to fall to one-under par, same as Mickelson. Right now that puts the two of them in a large group tied for 24th.
Adam Scott takes the lead | 3:55 p.m.
Phil Mickelson birdies the par-four 12th to get to even par at the PGA Championship. Yes, that sound you heard in Santa Monica was the cheering from Rochester, N.Y.
He seemed to end his brief bit of momentum with a tee shot at the par-five 13th that barely stayed out of water and off the rocks but he somehow, without hurting himself or others, got the ball back in the fairway. And, most miraculously of all, kept his light-colored pants spotless.
And there was almost three-way tie at the top. Miguel Angel Jimenez, with his unnaturally straight back, normal-guy belly and signature ponytail, could have grabbed a share of the lead, joining Jim Furyk and Australian Adam Scott at five under par. But Jimenez, a 49-year-old Spaniard, just missed a 10-footer for birdie on the 14th.
Mickelson, also on the 14th, drove up the middle of the fairway (yes, that is not a typo, the fairway). What fun if the rain delay allowed Mickelson to find his way again. “Come on, Phil,” is starting to be heard all around the course. It sounds as if even people who can’t see Phil are shouting for him.
Mickelson gave himself about a 12-foot birdie putt on the short par-four hole to get under par for the first time in the round. He made the putt to go one-under. At the same hole, Scott took the outright lead, making a six-footer to go to six under, one ahead of Furyk.
Play resumes after weather delay | 3:48 p.m.
At 3:36 p.m. Pacific time, the horn sounds again and play resumes at the PGA Championship. Phil Mickelson is on the tee at No. 11.
Rory McIlroy birdies the 12th after the rain to get to two-under par.
Mickelson gets birdie at the 11th, making about a 15-foot putt, to go with his birdie at No. 9 before the rain, and now he’s just one-over.
And never mind about German Martin Kaymer. He just holed out on the par-five No. 13 for an eagle and is at three under and tied for fifth, two shots out of the lead of the event he won in 2010.
Australia's Jason Day, who was third at the Masters in Augusta last spring and second at the U.S. Open at Merion at the U.S. Open last month, is also tied for fifth, two shots out of the lead. Day is through 15.
Bad weather halts the first round | 1:34 p.m.
The first round has been delayed because of weather, with all players on course headed back to the clubhouse. Jim Furyk (finished) and Adam Scott (through 10) tied for the lead at five-under. Before the delay:
Phil Mickelson finished with a bit of oomph with a birdie on the ninth hole, though he was still two over par. And he hit the fairway on the 10th with his drive but settled for par.
Rory McIlroy made a mess of 10 and 11, starting the back nine bogey-bogey and his face was a road map of disappointment. So was his scorecard so far. He was tied for 17th at one-under after those bogeys.
Through 12 Miguel Angel Jimenez had seven birdies, two pars, a bogey and a double-bogey. The pony-tailed Spaniard was tied for third, a shot behind Furyk and Scott.
Justin Rose was three-under through 10, playing with Mickelson and Scott.
Adam Scott charges to the top (1 p.m. update)
Jim Furyk has company atop the leaderboard, with Adam Scott joining him. However, Furyk is done for the day, while Scott is heading to the back nine after streak of five straight birdies. Canada’s David Hearn is still a shot behind them.
Phil Mickelson hits first fairway but missed a 15-foot birdie putt just to the right. That’s progress for him today. He stays at three-over, tied for 113th.
Scott Piercy, who started at 10, birdied holes 1, 2 and 3 and moves into a tie for fourth with Robert Garrigus, Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott, Marcus Fraser, Lee Westwood, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Kohki Idoki among many others.
Rory McIlroy birdied the ninth hole with a confident 12-footer that left him at three-under, two behind Furyk.
Luke Donald, putting well, birdied the final two holes of his front nine to get to even par.
Rough start for Phil Mickelson (Noon update)
After leaving his tee shot in the water at No. 5, Rory McIlroy saved a bogey and drops to two-under for the tournament.
The crowd, however, is solidly behind Phil Mickelson, yelling "Come on, Phil" after he went out of bounds on the fourth. The support didn't help though, because he double-bogeyed the hole and is three-over for the day already. He may want to think about hitting a fairway.
Of the second wave of golfers on the course, Kohki Idoki, at four-under, is the star so far.
Martin Kaymer, PGA Championship winner two years ago, has found water. Might not hear his name too much this year.
Finally! Mickelson hits a fairway on five! Maybe he can par. So far Mickelson is in 117th place. Talk about starting from behind.
Tiger Woods talks about his tough first round (11:30 a.m. update)
Tiger Woods was having a good day until the 18th hole, when his round went off the rails. He made a double bogey on the 18th to end his day one-over par.
Woods spoke briefly after the round. “One loose nine-iron. I had some decent tee shots. The round realistically could have been under par.”
Jim Furyk shoots a 65 (11 a.m. update)
“First day, just trying to stay positive,” he said. “Trying to get my feet under me the first few holes.”
Beginning on the back nine, the Pennsylvania native made birdie on No. 10 and saved par with an up-and-down on No. 11.
“I kind of calmed down and settled into my game,” he said.
And that was good enough to make him the clubhouse leader midway through the first round at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. His round of 65 put him at 5-under, a stroke ahead of David Hearn.
No such problems for Furyk, who liked the rain-softened course: “I would say the conditions were about as good as they are going to be for scoring.”
After missing the cut at the U.S. Open and British Open, he had two Top 10 finishes in the recent Canadian Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. So Furyk believed he was on a bit of a roll coming into the PGA Championship.
A long putt on No. 16 set up another birdie and then he stuck an iron to within one foot at No. 18. The front nine offered more scoring opportunities on Nos. 1, 4 and 7.
The only misstep came on his final hole – No. 9 – where he suffered a bogey.
“Hit a bunch of fairways today,” he said. “Fun day with the putter.”
Surprising David Hearn near the top (10:30 a.m. update)
With a Canadian near the top of the leaderboard, you just knew that talk around the PGA Championship would eventually turn to hockey.
David Hearn, who finished at 4-under for the first round at Oak Hill Country Club, comes from the same town in Ontario as Wayne Gretzky. He was asked about the 25-year anniversary of the trade that sent the Great One to the Los Angeles Kings.
“It was 1988, so I was 9,” Hearn said. “It was certainly one of those events as a Canadian that nobody will forget.”
No surprise that the Gretzky family counts as royalty around Brantford, Canada. Hearn said he has run into Gretzky on numerous occasions, including at a Web.com Tour event that the hockey Hall of Famer has hosted.
Gretzky offered both advice and inspiration.
“Coming from a hockey background, it wasn’t directly golf-related,” Hearn recalled. “But you know, he definitely just shows a good example of how he became successful, and he was one of the hardest workers when he grew up in Brantford.”
Jim Furyk takes early lead (10 a.m. update)
When the weekend comes around, the players at the PGA Championship might look back and say that Thursday morning provided the best scoring conditions of the tournament.
On a course known for being difficult, a slew of players stood under par through a significant portion of the first round.
Overnight rain and light winds made Oak Hill Country Club play softer and friendlier than expected, leading to plenty of birdie opportunities and a leader, Jim Furyk, at 5-under through 15 holes.
Several marquee names joined Furyk on the leaderboard, with the likes of Paul Casey, Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler and Tiger Woods within four strokes. David Hearn, of Canada, was something of a surprise, reaching the clubhouse at 4-under.
Making his first appearance at a PGA Championship, Hearn stuck his approaches on Nos. 10 and 16, and made a 10-foot putt for birdie on No. 11.
The Ontario native — who hails from the same town as Wayne Gretzky — said he was glad to start early and make use of the moisture on the course.
“It feels good for me to be in contention,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been playing good golf this month.”
Tiger Woods off to solid start (9 a.m. update)
A glimmer of frustration showed on Tiger Woods’ face.
The world’s top-ranked golfer had just he missed his second consecutive birdie chance at the PGA Championship, pulling his putt left at No. 3. But he couldn’t be too upset.
Woods was playing well enough to reach two-under through 12 holes of the first round, just two strokes off the lead at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.
Jim Furyk and David Hearn of Canada stood atop the leaderboard at four-under. The scores were a little surprising on a course that has featured tight landing areas and greens that are difficult to read. Some players predicted more of a challenge on Thursday.
“It's one of the toughest courses we ever play in a major championship,” Tom Watson said on Wednesday.
Blast from the the past (7 a.m. update)
The PGA Championship will have a nostalgic feel as golfers tee off for the first round at Oak Hill Country Club in New York on Thursday morning.
Tom Watson was scheduled to start at 9:35 a.m. PDT, making his first appearance at the championship since he played it at Oak Hill in 2003. But don’t expect him to feel all warm and cuddly about it.
“This course gets my goat every time,” he said. “I don’t play this course very well.”
Watson -- who will serve as the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team captain -- shot a pair of 75s and missed the cut last time around. He can commiserate with players who have talked about the challenges of the next few days.
“It’s one of the toughest courses we ever play in a major championship,” he said. “This course has held the U.S. Open, the PGA, the Senior PGA and the U.S. Amateur.”
There will be a few differences with Oak Hill compared with what Watson might remember. PGA executive Kerry Haigh said the greens at Nos. 5, 6 and 15 have been softened up and the mowing patterns have changed.
Gone is the step-cut between the fairway and the rough. The PGA has switched to a graduated cut that includes an intermediate length. Phil Mickelson called it “one of the best setups I’ve ever seen.”
Even Watson has been impressed.
“The fairways are absolutely perfect. The greens are perfect,” he said. “The condition of the golf course is very consistent.”
As in, consistently tough.
Tiger Woods has a 5:35 a.m. PDT tee time. Rory McIlroy was scheduled to tee off at 10:25 a.m. PDT, and Phil Mickelson at 10:45 am.
Check back throughout the day for updates.