CHARLOTTE – Rickie Fowler had a triple bogey on the scorecard and still shot 2-under 69 Thursday at Quail Hollow. Rory McIlroy was 2 under through 10 but ended up with a 1-over 72.
That’s how things went in Round 1 of the 99th PGA Championship at a course which provides potential for heroics or disaster at every turn.
The massive throng of fans following the featured pairing of Fowler, McIlroy and Jon Rahm saw a bit of everything, with Fowler ultimately turning in the best round of the three despite a rocky start. Rahm finished in the middle with a 1-under 70.
“I’ve definitely had a lot of good finishes here,” said Fowler, who picked up his first career win here at the 2012 Wells Fargo championship. “This golf course has a great look to me. It suits my eye. I’ve made a lot of putts here.”
Fowler started with birdies at three and four before getting into trouble at the par-4 5th, a poor tee shot to a bunker right of the fairway ultimately leading to a triple-bogey 7.
McIlroy was 1 over through six but made birdies at seven, eight and 10 to get to 2 under. He seemed poised to take control just two shots off the lead but made bogey at 13 and put his tee shot in the water at the par-4 14th which led to a double-bogey 6. He also missed a short birdie putt at the par-5 15th.
“If I just could have had that three-hole stretch back,” Rory said, “but I think other than that, I played nicely. Did what I needed to do. Birdied the par 5s, birdied the holes that you should birdie. I’m just disappointed with that three-hole stretch, but right in it. It wasn’t very easy. It was tough. Greens were difficult. Greens got very grainy as the day went on as well. If you just hit a putt a tiny bit off line, it exaggerated. It was tough to hole putts this afternoon.”
Both McIlroy and Fowler are still very much in the hunt and in decent position ahead of their 8:25 a.m. tee time Friday, McIlroy going for career major No. 5 and Fowler still chasing that elusive breakthrough win. Given the way he bounced back from that big number early in the round on Thursday, who knows what Round 2 holds in store with Fowler just two shots off co-leaders Thorbjorn Olesen and Kevin Kisner.
“The big thing for me is continuing to drive it as good as I did today, if not better,” Fowler said. “That can be tightened up a little bit. If we do that, it will be a good week.”