Scheffler tied for PGA lead as Oak Hill sets new challenge

PITTSFORD, NY (AP) — Oak Hill offers a bit of everything at this PGA Championship. One constant is Scottie Scheffler, who is getting used to chasing the majors.

A late frost at the start gave way to heat and wind on Friday morning before rain showers brought out the umbrellas in the afternoon. Scheffler was steady as ever, posting a 2-under 68 that gave him a share of the lead with Corey Conners and Viktor Hovland.

“Those are the positions I want to be in,” Scheffler said. “I show up at tournaments to give my best. I’m proud of how I did the first few days, and I’m delighted to be in a good position heading into the weekend. That being said, I’m going to keep my head down and keep doing what I’m doing.

Hovland, who shared the 54-hole lead at St. Andrews last summer, is also getting used to it. He dropped just one shot early in his round of 67 and closed with a 7-iron on a wet, thick rough from 5 feet for a birdie. It was his 10th straight run in the majors when he finished the day in the top 10 of the standings.

Conners had a 68, at one point, building a two-shot lead until he had to rely on his short game to account for some errant drives and tough holes on the front nine.

They were 5-under 135, two shots ahead of Bryson DeChambeau (71) and Justin Suh (68).

The top seven players – including Brooks Koepka, who shot 31 on the back nine in his round of 66 – came from the same side of the draw. They were delayed two hours by freezing temperatures and a layer of frost on the grass. They dodged the wind on Friday morning, then passing showers extinguished part of the Oak Hill fire.

“The rain…luckily we had no wind, so that helped,” Hovland said. “With that rain the ball went a little short. And if you’re into the rough it tends to make that rough a little juicier. Ultimately it makes the greens softer and maybe you can be a bit more aggressive.

There have been some impressive turnovers, that’s for sure.

Shane Lowry birdied six in an eight-hole streak on the rainy afternoon to close with a pair of bogeys. He had to settle for a 67, leaving him in a large group at even 140, five shots behind but still very much in the heart of it.

That group included club pro Michael Block (70), and it includes Rory McIlroy, who felt like he hit the ball badly – ​​and looked like that on a record – and was slightly stunned when he threw a glance at the standings after his 69 to find himself within range.

“I think about how terribly I’ve felt over the golf ball the last two days, the fact that I’m only five years back… I guess that’s a good thing, because I know if I can get him to play off the tee, that’s the key to my success this weekend,” McIlroy said.

Some players were just happy to still be there for the weekend.

Masters champion Jon Rahm, the No. 1 player in the world, opened with a 76 and couldn’t knock down a putt. He was missing holes, a shot over the cut of 5, when he ran three straight birdies and collected a 68 to make the cut with a stroke to spare.

Jordan Spieth came off the tee on the 14th practice thinking he would get a good look at the birdie. And then he found such an awkward lie in a bunker before his shot sailed over the green, over the boundary fence and landed somewhere on the grounds of Irondequoit Country Club.

He had to try again, scratched a bogey, birdied the 15th and ended his day saving par with a 10-foot putt to make the cut on the number. He was tied at the bottom with defending champion Justin Thomas, who took two shots to escape from a bunker on the 18th and had to make a 7-foot bogey putt to make it to the weekend.

And now the focus is on the top, a mix of great champions, players making their PGA Championship debut, a PGA Tour rookie and a club professional. All were within five shots of the lead.

DeChambeau started the round in the lead. Eric Cole had a shot ahead in the morning and still had four holes to complete the frost-delayed first round. His first swing of the day went into the water, he shot 67 to finish a behind then had a 74.

DeChambeau also had a rocky start, especially on the par-4 sixth hole, so tough he gave up just three birdies out of 156 players and had an average score of 4.75. He was in a bunker at the edge of the green, took two shots to get out and made a double bogey.

He didn’t birdie his first until the par-3 11th hole — DeChambeau hit a 248-yard 6-iron from 6 feet — and birdied two more before a bogey.

And then he walked to the shooting range as darkness fell.

“I know what to do. I’ve done it before,” DeChambeau, the 2020 US Open champion told Winged Foot. “It’s been a few years, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to do it. , and if it’s not my time, it’s not my time. I feel like I’m definitely heading in the right direction.”

The same goes for Scheffler, who contested the PGA Championship in 2020 as a rookie, won the Masters a year ago and missed a US Open qualifier by one shot at Brookline.

He opened with two birdies, made his first bogey of the tournament on the seventh hole and caught Conners for the lead with a tough back-and-forth from a thick rough on the 14th and a close-range corner on the 15th hole from 131 yards. with a front pin.

“The tournament is halfway there,” Scheffler said. “I’ve had two good days so far, and I just hope to continue that as the week progresses.”


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