Woodland edges Fowler on fascinating first day at Bellerive

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The cream always rises to the top at a major championship, and it was no different at Bellerive. Keel Timmins wraps up day 1 of the PGA Championship

What happened on Thursday at the PGA Championship?

A back-nine birdie barrage was enough for America’s Gary Woodland to set the early pace at the PGA Championship, but plenty of big names are in the hunt at Bellerive.

Woodland made seven birdies in his final 11 holes to sneak into the clubhouse with a 64, one better than forgotten man Rickie Fowler.

Fowler, who still goes in search of his first major win, issued a timely warning to the field that he is still very much a factor at the top of the game having not tasted victory since last February on the PGA Tour.

With Bellerive playing incredibly soft – much more so than a typical major championship setup – low scores were available and, as a result, a logjam has developed within a few shots of the lead.

Just three shots back of Woodland sit the likes of Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter.

World No.2 Justin Thomas got off to a fast start but faltered late on to post a 69, while the opposite was true for Tiger Woods, who battled back from a poor start to post level-par. Completing that marquee group was Rory McIlroy, who matched Woods’ score.

Open champion Francesco Molinari had a shocker of a start and fell to three-over through six, but a terrific back-nine saw the Italian into the clubhouse at two-under and well in contention for back-to-back majors.

At the bottom of the leaderboard, Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson have work to do to make the cut after a pair of 73s, as do Masters champion Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth after opening with 72 and 71 respectively.

Full PGA Championship leaderboard

Talking point

After a lacklustre performance at the WGC-Bridgestone, expectations didn’t seem to be that high for Tiger Woods this week.

However, nobody was quite expecting Woods to get off to such a poor start today.

The 14-time major champion made a 10ft putt on the first for a fairly good bogey, and then his approach to the second hole found the water short of the green on the way to a double bogey.

Make no mistake, it was a horror start and Woods’ tournament was on the verge of slipping away before he had even completed the opening nine.

Despite clearly not having his A-game, what we then witnessed was a classic Tiger round where he battled and managed to squeeze out the very best score that was possible.

Birdies at 12, 18, 1 and 8 has Woods in the clubhouse at level par, just five shots behind the leader.

If he can get off to a brighter start on Friday, he might just be able to make a charge up the leaderboard.

Best quote

Rickie Fowler paid tribute to Jarrod Lyle:

Best stat

Best moments

https://twitter.com/PGAChampionship/status/1027689124411539456]

Friday betting update

Jim Furyk somehow got the better of Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele in the first round, but don’t expect a repeat of that on Friday. Finau is in danger of missing the cut after opening with a 74 – count on the big-hitter to bounce back and win the three-ball to keep up his excellent major record in 2018.

Former PGA Champion Jimmy Walker got off to a nice start and he should be able to see off his playing partners Padraig Harrington and Vijay Singh, who won’t be able to keep up on this lengthy tee-to-green test.

Finally, Ollie Schniederjans should be much too strong for the fatigued Troy Merritt and club-pro David Muttitt.

The treble pays a tad over 6/1.

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