Scottie Scheffler shares 36-hole lead at PGA, with DeChambeau, Koepka lurking
PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Oak Hill is delivering a little bit of everything at this PGA Championship. One constant is Scottie Scheffler, who is getting used to chasing majors.
A frost delay at the start gave way to warmth and wind 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.
“These are the positions I want to be in,” Scheffler said. “I show up to the tournaments to perform at my best. I’m proud of how I did the first few days, and I’m excited to be in a good position going into the weekend. With 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 getting used to this, too. He dropped only one shot early in his round of 67, and closed with a 7-iron out of wet, thick rough to 5 feet for birdie. It was his 10th consecutive round in the majors when he ended the day among the top 10 on the leaderboard.
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 at 5-under 135, two shots clear of Bryson DeChambeau (71) and Justin Suh (68).
The leading seven players — that includes 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 by two hours from freezing temperatures and a coat of frost on the grass. They avoided the wind Friday morning, and then passing showers took some of fire out of Oak Hill.
“The rain ... just thankfully we didn’t have any wind, so that kind of helped us out,” Hovland said. “With that rain, the ball went a little bit short. And if you’re in the rough, it tends to make that rough a little bit juicier. At the end of the day, it makes the greens softer, and you can maybe be a hair more aggressive.”
There were some impressive turnarounds, to be sure.
Shane Lowry had six birdies in an eight-hole stretch in the rainy afternoon until closing with a pair of bogeys. He had to settle for a 67, leaving him in a large group at even-par 140, five shots behind but still very much in the thick of it.
That group included club pro Michael Block (70), and it includes Rory McIlroy, who felt as though he hit the ball badly — and sounded like it on one drive — and was mildly stunned when he glanced at the leaderboard after his 69 to find himself in range.
“I think how terribly I’ve felt over the golf ball over the last two days, the fact that I’m only five back ... I guess that’s a good thing, because I know if I can get it in play off the tee, that’s the key to my success over the weekend,” McIlroy said.
Some players were simply happy to still be around for the weekend.
Masters champion Jon Rahm, the No. 1 player in the world, opened with a 76 and couldn’t get a putt to fall. He was running out of holes, one shot over the cut of 5 over, when he ran off three straight birdies and salvaged a 68 to make the cut with one shot to spare.
Jordan Spieth walked off the tee at the drivable 14th figuring he would have a good look at birdie. And then he found such an awkward lie in a front bunker that his shot sailed over the green, over the boundary fence and landed somewhere on the grounds of Irondequoit Country Club.
He had to try it again, scratched out 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 a bunker on the 18th and had to make a 7-foot bogey putt to get to the weekend.
And now the focus shifts to the top, a mixture of major champions, players making their debuts in the PGA Championship, a PGA Tour rookie and a club professional. All of them were within five shots of the lead.
DeChambeau began the round in the lead. Eric Cole was one 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 one behind and then had a 74.
DeChambeau had a rugged start, too, particularly on the par-4 sixth hole, so difficult that it yielded only three birdies out of 156 players and had an average score of 4.75. He was in a greenside bunker, took two shot to get out and made double bogey.
He didn’t make his first birdie until the par-3 11th hole — DeChambeau hit 6-iron from 248 yards to 6 feet — and had two more birdies before a bogey finish.
And then he headed to the range as darkness fell.
“I know what to do. I’ve done it before,” said DeChambeau, the U.S. Open champion at Winged Foot in 2020. “It’s been a few years, but it 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 trending in the right direction finally.”
So does Scheffler, who contended at the PGA Championship in 2020 as a rookie, won the Masters a year ago and missed a U.S. Open playoff 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 up-and-down from thick rough on the 14th and a wedge to short range on the 131-yard 15th hole with a front pin.
“The tournament is halfway done,” Scheffler said. “I had two good days so far, and I’m just hoping to continue that as the week goes on.”