CRAWFORD | Rewinding Round One from Valhalla - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Rewinding Round One from Valhalla

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The trio atop the leaderboard of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club reads like the name of a funeral home: Westwood, Palmer & Chappell.

Now all we need is a corpse.

Lee Westwood has started 67 majors without winning one -- the most of any active player -- missed the cut in both the U.S. Open and British Open and is playing for his Ryder Cup life this week, not to mention returning to a city which he said behaved "shamefully" in all its ugly-American glory in heckling the European team during the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup. His rock-solid 65 matched his lowest ever in a major. Coming on the heels of a final-round 63 at the WGC-Bridgestone, Westwood may have potential staying power after posting nine birdies, best in the field. No, wait, I didn't just type that.

Kevin Chappell isn't even sure how he got here, literally. He was close enough to being in the top 100 that last Monday the PGA issued him an invitation for press release purposes. You know the press release, the one that says, "The Top 100 Players in the World Golf Ranking Will Play in the PGA Championship."  A week and a half later, the 107th ranked player in those same ratings shares the lead in the PGA Championship after playing a bogey-free opening round.

Ryan Palmer's top finish in a major was a tie for 10th at the 2011 Masters. Neither he nor Chappell has ever led or shared the lead after any major championship round. Palmer had seven birdies today and held the lead until he bogeyed the par-3 eighth hole (his 17th of the day).

Just one stroke behind the leaders, however, is Rory McIlroy, the world No. 1 who is seeking his second straight major and third straight win. Just when it looked like his recent run had burned out, with a double-bogey on the par-5 10th, he stormed back with three straight birdies.

"I think you have to take whatever you are feeling inside and try and turn it into a positive," McIlroy said. "You are -- as you said, I was hot. It's trying to use that fire as a fuel to sort of propel yourself forward. It was great. I think it just shows where my game is mentally right now, as well, that I was able to do that today."

And then there's Jim Furyk, also at 5-under, and thank goodness if you're a fan of the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Furyk is ever-steady. A veteran of plenty of competitive rounds at Valhalla after his winning Ryder Cup experience, he birdied his final three holes to move into stalking position.

Eduardo Molinari, Henrik Stenson and Chris Wood all are in a group at minus-5. Of the 19 players who shot 3-under or better on the first day, only six were Americans -- including Kentucky's own J.B. Holmes, who finished three under.

TIGER TROUBLES. Tiger Woods took more drops than birdies in his first round. His putts came up short, even when he had good reads. And he finished with a 3-over 72, good for 109th in the field, nine shots off the lead. He talked about getting under par and putting himself back into the pack in the second round. Frank Nobilo summed it up pretty well in his commentary for The Golf Channel:

"Fourteen years ago he came here on Day One, shot an opening-round 66 and went on to win the third leg of the Tiger Slam. Fourteen years later, he struggled to come here on time, struggled to find his health and he struggled on day one . . .  he will struggle come (Friday) at 1:45 to try to avoid missing the cut at a major for the fourth time."

RYDER CUP, ANYONE? On Wednesday, Tom Watson named Scott Stricker the team's third vice-captain. The old coach might want to keep his golf shoes handy.

Tiger Woods wants badly to make the team, but one of those criteria might be beating the coach.

Watson, just four weeks before his 65th birthday, parred the first 15 holes, made bogey at No. 16, then parred out to finish at 1-over 72.

In reality, Woods hasn't shown enough to make the team. Jason Dufner withdrew after 10 holes, unable to go on because of neck pain. Matt Kuchar withdrew with back pain.

And the vice-captain? Stricker finished the first round 2-under, tied for 20th.

A total of 53 players finished the opening round under par. Valhalla was panned as far too easy a course for a major championship after 51 players were under par after the first round in 1996. In 2000, only 21 were below par through one round of the PGA Championship.

Not surprisingly, hole No. 2, converted to a par-4, was the hardest hole statistically. Its scoring average was a 4.445 and it yielded four birdies, 92 pars, 47 bogeys, 10 double bogeys and two worse than that.

The easiest hole on the course was No. 18, site of seven of the day's nine eagles. The 528-yard par 5 gave up a scoring average of 4.626, including 67 birdies, 59 pars, 21 bogeys and one double bogey.

Overall, there were 34 rounds in the sixties and the scoring average for the field was 72.21.

Kentucky golf's favorite son had large and enthusiastic galleries all around the course, and made three birdies but also had four bogeys in his 1-over round that left him tied for 78th position.

Dan Jenkins' streak of 179 straight majors came to an end when he skipped the British Open. He started a new one this week at Valhalla, his 223rd lifetime major. (You can read an excellent compilation of his coverage in his book, "The Majors," or you can take a look at his memoir, "His Ownself," or, heck, just read them all. It's going to rain Friday. You have time.)

Regardless, Jenkins isn't a big fan of Louisville, apparently. From his mandatory Twitter account, @danjenkinsgd, he stated, "My five least favorite U.S. major cities, in order: Louisville, Atlanta, Cleveland, Akron and whatever Kiawah Island is."

A lot of folks from around here I know got upset at that. Friends, when Jenkins or the late Jim Murray puts your city on a list, just be glad you're somewhere.

Still, it's a sticky spot, having to make a choice between a writer you think the world of and a city where you were born and have lived a good portion of your life.

So by way of an official response, I offer this: We should at least rank above Akron and Atlanta, if for no other reason than that the bars are open till 4 a.m. I've spent more than my share of time in Atlanta the last several years. About the only thing you can get downtown after midnight is mugged.

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