Stricker sets torrid pace as Tiger stumbles
By Brendon Hanley Aug 12, 2011, 0:24 GMT
Atlanta, Georgia - Former world number one Tiger Woods started his tournament well Thursday at the PGA Championship but quickly crashed at the Atlanta Athletic club to stand 14 strokes off the first round pace set by fellow US player Steve Stricker.
Woods, who has won 14 majors in his career but has been beset by injury and personal problems over the last two years, shot a 77, seven over par.
The 35-year-old was three under after five holes, but three double bogeys and a further five bogeys left him visibly frustrated on a day when he hit the ball in the water twice.
'I'm not down,' Woods said after the erratic round, the worst in his career at the PGA. 'I'm really angry right now.'
Woods has only just been getting back into practice after a lay-off with a leg injury, and he said that after his quick start he began to relax for the worse. 'Once you get to a major championship, sometimes you just let it fly, let it go. I did that, and it cost me.'
Woods has won the tournament on four occasions, the last time in 2007, but he has not claimed a major victory since the 2008 US Open, and he will have to fight tomorrow to make the cut.
In contrast, Stricker, the highest-rated US player in the world at number five, has never won a major in 52 tries, but he is in pole position to break the record streak of six majors without a US champion.
The 44-year-old failed to convert a 10-foot putt on the final hole in John's Creek, Georgia, to just miss becoming the first player ever to shoot a 62 at a major championship.
'I hit a good putt. It just didn't go in. But it was a good day,' Stricker said. 'I didn't make too many birdies the first three days during the practice rounds, but I got off to a good start and it kind of got me going.'
Stricker shot a five under 30 on the vaunted back nine, leaving him ahead of a trio of Americans: Jerry Kelley at five under par, Shaun Michael another shot behind and also 47-year-old Scott Veplank, who has never won a major but shot a solid 67.
A host of players are chasing at one and two under par, including 47-year old Davis Love III, who won the 1997 PGA Championship, and 2009 Open Championship victor Stewart Cink.
At the other end of the scoreboard is Darren Clarke, who ended up with the same plus seven as Tiger Woods after winning his first career major at the British Open a month ago.
Clarke was grouped with the other major winners from this year: South African Charl Schwartzel, who won the Masters, and Clarke's Northern Irish compatriot and US Open champion Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy injured his wrist while hitting a ball that had landed along a tree root on the third hole, but after being examined by a trainer, the obviously concerned 22-year-old played on and turned in an up-and-down even score.
'It was dangerous,' said McIlroy about the shot and injury that has made him a question mark moving forward. 'I jarred my right wrist and forearm and it was painful after that.'
Schwartzel overcame a double bogey to make it to one under par, while defending champion Martin Kaymer is two over after three bogeys and a birdie.
Young Australian Jason Day, who has finished second in each of the last two major tournaments, struggled at the end of his plus-one round, double bogeying the 18th hole and going four over on the last four holes.
Also at one over, Phil Mickelson posted two birdies against three bogeys as he looks to win his second PGA after leading wire-to-wire in 2005.
'There are some really hard holes and some really easy holes for birdies,' said Mickelson about the course. 'It will definitely be exciting to watch.'
Ryo Ishikawa, the 19-year-old who turned in an impressive, top five performance last week at the Bridgestone Invitational, had a nightmare day, shooting an 85 that included five double bogeys.