VERY SAD NEWS;PGA Championship at Valhalla was brought to its knees Thursday. Here’s why

VERY SAD NEWS;PGA Championship at Valhalla was brought to its knees Thursday. Here’s why

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Two fans, just to the right of Valhalla’s beastly 256-yard, par-3 14th, were flummoxed. They were discussing the leaderboard, though not who was leading, or who wasn’t. It was how they were. They’d driven here from Milwaukee, after all, seeking a PGA Championship, a major championship. 

But instead they got a dart game. 

They saw more 3s from players on the course Thursday than have been delivered by their beloved Green Bay Packers kicker, or shot by an adored Milwaukee Bucks sharpshooter. 

“You see that?” one said in discussing the low, low scores. 

It was something, and something you don’t expect from golf’s biggest tournaments. On Tuesday, Scottie Scheffler, the World No. 1 and Masters champ, said the majors “have leaned into” trying to topple their participants. But when the golf balls went into the air during Thursday’s first round, the players pushed back. 

The evidence, according to the Elias Sports Bureau: 

— Xander Schauffele shot a nine-under 62 to lead. It tied the mark for lowest score in a major championship. It tied the lowest score relative to par in the first round of a major. It was the lowest score relative to par in the first round of a PGA Championship. It was the lowest raw score in the first round of a PGA Championship.

— Sixty-four players shot under par. The PGA Championship record for the highest number of sub-par opening rounds was 60, set in 2006 at Medinah Country Club.   

— Another 19 were at even par, meaning more than half of the field didn’t shoot over 71.

— Tom Kim, who will turn 22 this June, shot a 66. He is only the second player to shoot 66 or better in the opening round of a PGA Championship prior to his 22nd birthday, joining Sergio Garcia. 

— Jeremy Wells shot a 69. He is just the second club professional in the past 20 years to break 70 in the first round of the PGA Championship.

There was not one reason, the beneficiaries said. There were several. Together, it was a perfect storm, and the red numbers and circles reigned.

Was it the greens softened by storms earlier in the week here?

The weird reality of Xander Schauffele’s record-breaking PGA Championship start

Viktor Hovland thought so. Tony Finau thought so. So did Rory McIlroy, and it was especially so for the pros hardened by the harder greens they played on last week at the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club. 

“You come to greens like this, second shots are easier. Chip shots are easier if you do miss the greens,” said McIlroy, who fired a five-under 66.  

“I think just the difference between last week in Charlotte and this week, it’s a big difference.”

Or maybe the low scoring was because the fairways were also softened. Finau thought that. 

“Yeah, the greens are soft, so it didn’t matter what clubs you were hitting into the greens; they were going to stop,” said Finau, who carded a six-under 65. “I thought whether it was a 5-iron, a wedge, a 9-iron. So whenever that’s the case, we don’t have to play for too much bounce, [and] I think you’re going to see a lot of guys hit the ball in areas where you can make putts. … 

Or perhaps the low scoring was due to the zoysia also in the fairway. Brooks Koepka, the defending champion who shot a four-under 67, thought so. “Soft conditions, especially with the grass change, instead of having the bent, that zoysia make it a little bit easier, I think,” he said. 

Of course, these boys are also really freaking good. 

At least that’s

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