Petterssen Starts & Stays Hot; Takes 18-hole Lead in PGA Championship

By: Jeff Shelley

Carl Petterssen, a native of Sweden who makes his home in Raleigh, N.C., carded a six-birdie 66 to take a one-stroke lead in the opening round of the 94th PGA Championship. Golf's fourth and final major of the year is taking place on the Pete Dye-designed Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C.

The 34-year-old North Carolina State graduate carded four birdies on the front nine and two more on the inward half at the course alongside the Atlantic Ocean that lost much of its expected bite due to generally calm conditions Thursday.

"I played really good," Petterssen told reporters. "Obviously getting off to a good start was the key to the round. I birdied 1, 2 and 4, so I was 3 under early. There really wasn't much wind on the front nine, so I knew I had to keep going low because I figured the wind would get up.

"The wind started blowing a little bit on the back nine, and I carried on solid play, hitting a lot of fairways, hitting a lot of greens and making a few putts," added the five-time PGA Tour winner, who's most recent victory came in April at the RBC Heritage in nearby Hilton Head, S.C. "So it was a great day for me."

Carding 67s were Gary Woodland, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, Sweden's Alex Noren and Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Woodland, a one-time Tour winner from Kansas, had a good outing, carding four birdies, an eagle on the par-5 11th and a bogey after starting play on the 10th hole. The long-hitting former college basketball player said the key to his 67 was finding the fairway off the tee. "Conditions were ideal," said the 28-year-old. "You know, we definitely got lucky this morning, no wind when we teed off for probably nine, 10, 11, 12 holes. It was ideal conditions. I drove the ball great today.

"Out here there's a lot of holes where I can take advantage of the driver, hit my irons into all the par 5s, which is a huge advantage. Me driving the ball in the fairway I gave myself a lot of chances and made a couple putts coming in."

Also beginning his round on No. 10 was the 23-year-old McIlroy, who had a clean scorecard that listed five birdies and the rest pars on the 7,676-yard course, the longest in major championship history. "It was great," the 2011 U.S. Open champion said of his round. "You know, it's a great way to start the tournament. You know, hitting balls on the range this morning, there was completely no wind.

"It was flat-calm and I really thought that I had to take advantage of the conditions. Got off to a great start. Was 3 under through seven and just took it on from there. So very happy with the round, and it's a great score to build on."

Fernandez-Castano, a 31-year-old, had six birdies - including four on the back nine - and a bogey. The Madrid native has won six times on the European Tour.

Four major winners - John Daly, Geoff Ogilvy, Graeme McDowell and Keegan Bradley - were among those posting 68s. Daly, who stormed onto the golf scene with his 1991 PGA victory at Crooked Stick and followed that up with a win in the 1995 British Open, noted later that he's been seeing an improvement in his game leading up to this year's PGA.

"I think it's kind of been building up for the last five or six weeks," said Daly, who finished tied for fifth in last week's Reno-Tahoe Open. "I played solid in Canada except for one hole. I played like my best ball striking rounds were at the British Open this year. I couldn't have hit it any better. I just didn't get any breaks. That's just the way the course plays.

"But Qatar, starting in Qatar, I finished fourth, just gave me a little confidence. Like I've always said, when I get on a little run, six, seven, eight weeks in a row, I feel like I have a better chance of playing well, and it's starting to pay off a little bit, but that's when you're making cuts. I always believed when you're making cuts, it gives you a chance to get some confidence in your game. So I'm getting a lot of confidence, and I'm just hitting the ball solid."

Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champion, has also enjoyed good form of late. "I played well at the Open," the 35-year-old Aussie said of his play at Royal Lytham, where he finished tied for ninth. "I kind of scored not very well Thursday and Saturday at the Open, but played really well all week. Ended up kind of sneaking into a top-10 feeling like I could have done really well there.

"And then last week (at Firestone) is a frustrating course," added the seven-time Tour winner. "Played really, really well and just didn't make many putts and kind of just finished under par but felt like I was playing pretty well coming in here. So it was nice to get out there, like you said, obviously on the better half of the day and actually have a decent score. You still have to play well and it's easy to go out and not play well. So it's nice to have a reasonable score when other guys are having good scores. Hopefully that is a good start with three more to go."

Bradley, the defending PGA champion who came from behind to win last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, began Thursday's round on the 10th hole. He went out with two birdies, an eagle (on the 11th) and three bogeys for a 1-under 35, then got home with three birdies the rest of the way.

"I played very well," said the 26-year-old Vermont native. "Only two three-putts. One was from off the green, but they were my only two (sic) bogeys of the day and it was just a solid, solid round. I feel great."

Bradley was also thrilled to be announced as the defending champion. "Any time you get announced - I get announced as the PGA champion, it gives me chills. It was really fun and I love playing with Tiger (Woods), so it was a great day."

Also shooting 68 was Adam Scott, who's looking to rebound from his last major appearance. In the Open Championship, he forfeited a four-stroke lead with four holes to play and lost the Claret Jug to Ernie Els.

Scott said before the start of the opening round on the Ocean Course that if he finds himself in a similar position in the final round of this major he's better prepared to close the deal. "If I was in that position again, I'd feel like I'm playing pretty good, so at that point, I'd be quite confident," he noted Wednesday. "I've generally been a good closer of golf tournaments in my career. If I was in that position, I'd like to turn it around this time and close the golf tournament out."

For a while Thursday afternoon, the Netherlands' Joost Luiten held a two-stroke lead. Beginning on the 10th, the 26-year-old European Tour regular went out with three birdies and an eagle on the par-5 16th hole for a 5-under 31. He continued hot, with three birdies on the first five holes on his "back nine" to take the lead. But Luiten came back to the field after bogeys on his last four holes for a 37 and a 68.

All Luiten could do afterward was try to keep the memory of his outstanding start and wipe away thoughts of his last four holes. "I played really well and then to finish the round with four straight bogeys is not a good feeling," said Luiten, who's only win on the Continent came in November in the Iskandar Johor Open. "But it has been a good experience and I just have to take that into the next rounds and try to stay positive."

Speaking of Tiger Woods, the four-time PGA champion got off to a nice start with a 69 that included six birdies and three bogeys. "I played well today and anything in the 60s is going to be a good start in a major championship, and I'm right there," said Woods, who hit a mere 10 greens in regulation but needed only 22 putts.

He also noticed that as the day wore on the conditions changed. "I mean, geez, I'm playing with Keegan and he's 3 under through two, and you look up on the board, some guys 4 under through six; a bunch of guys 3 under through five; a couple of them were 3 under through three," added the No. 2-ranked player in the world.

"So it's one of those days where everyone's going to shoot 6-, 7-, 8-under par, but the wind kicked up a little bit and it changed things quite a bit. If it had stayed pretty benign, I'm sure you would have had to have probably shot 5 under par to be in the top-10. But things have changed. The wind has kicked up, and it's actually changed directions, too. When it first kicked up it was off the land and now it's off the ocean. Much different golf course now."

No. 1-ranked Luke Donald got off to a rough start in pursuit of his first major title. The 34-year-old carded a 2-over 74 with three birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey on the par-3 17th hole. Fellow Brit and world No. 4 Lee Westwood had two birdies and five bogeys for a 75.

Phil Mickelson was all over the Ocean Course with his drives. But thanks to some handy scrambling the 2005 PGA winner managed to get to the clubhouse with a 73.

Other scores included a 72 by Els, a 73 by reigning Masters' champion Bubba Watson, a 74 by Steve Stricker and a shocking 79 by 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson that involved three birdies, eight bogeys and a double on the par-4 third. Roger Chapman, who won the Senior U.S. Open and Senior PGA Championship this year, opened with a 78. Jim Furyk, who had a disappointing finish in last week's Bridgestone, posted a 72.

The lowest club pros were 74s by Jeff Coston of Blaine, Wash., and Alan Morin of Royal Palm Beach, Fla. Coston had a funny take on the lengthy Ocean Course. "I really like this golf course, and the people from South Carolina are some of my favorite people," said the former Tour player who's won myriad titles in the Pacific Northwest.

"It's just a great venue, all that jazz. I played here in 2005 and '07, but it wasn't set up like this. The greens were different. The layout is the same, although it's like way longer. I can remember 17 I hit a 5-wood in 2007 at the Senior PGA I hit a 5-iron, and I'm at least as as long as I was then. That's crazy, right? I hit a 5-wood my second shot on 18 today, and I remember the last round I hit a 7-iron, right?

"So it's different. But I need to get in and do a few more push ups here. I've only done 1,000 today, so I need another 500, I think."

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