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PGA Championships: Theegala tied second as Schauffele shoots 62, McIlroy on 5th

IANS | May 17, 2024 05:30 PM

LOUISVILLE: Sahith Theegala closed with a hat-trick of birdies and put himself in tied second place at the end of the first round of the 106th PGA Championships.

The Indian-American, who has been playing well without being able to convert some of his good weeks into a second win on the PGA Tour, shot 6-under 65 but was still three behind runaway leader, Xander Schauffele’s bogey free 62, which was the lowest round in PGA Championship history.

The 30-year-old Schauffele, who was bested by Rory McIlroy in the final round at Wells Fargo despite a great week, made good use of the conditions which saw the Valhalla Golf Club play soft. He one-putted 12 times in the round and twice it was for a par..

Theegala was tied second with Tony Finau and Mark Hubbard, who also had 65 each. Akshay Bhatia, also Indian-American shot 73 and was T-108, while Briton Aaron Rai, who also has parents with Indian origin, shot 68 and was T-18.

"Yeah, I played really well. Didn't hit the ball exceptionally -- like I've been hitting the ball really well, but today just felt kind of average. But my short game, which I've struggled with a little bit this year, really came in clutch and kind of was my old self around the greens. Hit a lot of great pitches close to the hole, " Theegala said.

He admitted, "The soft greens definitely help. But they're soft and pure; so it's a combo for low scores. Got a lot of putts to drop on the back nine, which is always a bonus."

Seven-time PGA Tour winner and Olympic gold medallist in 2020, Schauffele is still seeking his first Major. He has top-20 finishes in his last eight major championship starts, dating to the 2022 PGA Championship and was T-2 at 2018 Open and T-2 in 2019 Masters. He entered this week on a Tour-leading streak of 46 consecutive made cuts.

Rory McIlroy, looking to end a Major drought at the very venue which fetched him his last Major, the PGA in 2014, shot 5-under 66 to be tied with six others including Tom Kim of Korea, Scotsman Robert MacIntyre, Americans Colling Morikawa, Tom Hoge and Maverick McNealy and Belgian Thomas Detry.

Scottie Scheffler, the winner four times in last five times – he was T-2 in the fifth one – holed his second shot for an eagle 2 on the Par-4 first, his first hole since he became a father. Scheffler had an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys in his 67 and was T-12.

Tiger Woods closed the day bogey-bogey on eighth and ninth after starting from the tenth.

Jordan Spieth bogeyed his last hole for a 69 in his bid for the final leg of the Grand Slam.

Defending champion Brooks Koepka played his final three holes in 3-under for a 67. Bryson DeChambeau and Max Homa were in a large group at 68. Louisville star Justin Thomas rallied late for a 69.

Finau closed with four pars for his 65 and playing alongside him, Theegala had 65 with three closing birdies. McIlroy starting with a birdie on tenth had three birdies in a row late in his round in his 14th, 15th and 16th holes which were 5-6-7 for the course.

Korean star Tom Kim displayed his pedigree once again after equalling his career best score in a major championship with a 5-under 66 for a share of fifth place.

The 21-year-old Kim, who is a three-time PGA TOUR winner, has endured a challenging season without a top-10 to show for through 13 starts but a near flawless round at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky was enough reason to inject some optimism and confidence that better days are just around the corner. Kim has missed the cut in his three previous appearances at the PGA Championship.

Major debutant, S.H. Kim of Korea, opened with a solid 69 while 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan was the only other Asian player who broke par with a 70. Byeong Hun An, ranked sixth on the FedExCup points list, carded a 71 comprising of two birdies against as many bogeys.

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