Stricker dominates opening round

Steve Stricker stood a mere 10 feet away from the lowest round ever in a major, a captivating moment at any other championship.

Steve Stricker hits a drive during the first round of the PGA Championship  Thursday at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek

Steve Stricker hits a drive during the first round of the PGA Championship Thursday at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Steve Stricker stood a mere 10 feet away from the lowest round ever in a major, a captivating moment at any other championship.

Not this one.

Not with U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, the favourite at this PGA, trying to blast a seven-iron through a tree root. He injured his wrist so badly that he thought of quitting, yet somehow managed an even-par 70 despite not being able to hang onto the club with both hands.

And not with Tiger Woods looking like a 14-time major champion for five holes, only to finish 14 shots out of the lead after stumbling through the sand and posting a 77, his second-worst score ever in a major.

Already a memorable year in the majors, it looks like the PGA Championship wants a piece of the action.

On a sweat-stained Thursday at Atlanta Athletic Club, Stricker became the 11th player in PGA Championship history to shoot 63. He opened with three straight birdies and kept right on going until he stood on the cusp of history without even knowing it.

Only after his birdie putt for 62 slid by the cup did his caddie, Jimmy Johnson, tell him that it was for the record in a major.

“It never really registered,” Stricker said. “I was just trying to make a birdie and finish 8 under, and I really was concentrating on the putt, but never thought about the history part of it.”

He never thought he could be atop the leaderboard, either. After three days of practice on the 7,467-yard course — the longest par 70 ever at a major — Stricker didn’t have a good feeling about his chances. His money would have been on his Wisconsin neighbour, Jerry Kelly, and he wasn’t too far off.

Kelly had a career-best 65 in the PGA Championship and was two shots behind. Completing the American foursome atop the leaderboard was former PGA champion Shaun Micheel at 66, and Scott Verplank with a 67, perhaps the biggest surprise of the day because Verplank has been battling a wrist injury.

For the longest time, it looked as though he would have company in physical therapy.

The 22-year-old McIlroy showed his age, if not his fearless style, by taking a shot out of the left rough on the third hole, even though his ball sat squarely behind a five-centimetre wide tree root. He let the club fly from his hands on contact, but it was too late.

The ball only went about 20 yards behind more trees, and McIlroy immediately began shaking his right hand. Before long, he noticed swelling by the wrist, and a throbbing that stretched all the day up to his shoulder.

“It was dangerous,” McIlroy conceded. “In hindsight, it would have been better to chip out sideways. I still made 5. Yeah, it was a shot that I felt like, if I took it on and pulled it off, it could have saved me a shot.”

It nearly cost him the rest of the week.

McIlroy put an ice compress on his wrist, then summoned a physical therapist. He thought about withdrawing, but pressed on, flinching and flexing his wrist and making just enough putts for a remarkable round of 70.

He was scheduled for tests Thursday night, but felt confident about playing the second round if he could be assured he couldn’t do anything to make it worse.

The only injury to Woods was to his psyche.

He was 3 under through five holes, including a five-wood from pine straw over a mound and under a tree that set up birdie on the par-5 12th hole. But after a 4-iron into the water on the par-3 15th, he came undone.

Woods made three double bogeys over the next 10 holes, and wound up in a dozen bunkers. One last bogey gave him his second-highest score in a major, behind the 81 he shot at Muirfield in the 2002 British Open when it was wet and windy. This day was simply steamy, which described Woods’ mood after a round that got away.

“I’m not down,” he said. “I’m really angry right now. There’s a lot of words I could use beyond that.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said growing COVID-19 case numbers continue to be a concern in the province. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta announces 1,077 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

There are currently 14,052 active cases in the province

Head coach Jason Chatwood, left, sports one of the Sylvan Lake Gulls’ first on-field hats next to Aqil Samuel, general manager and president of baseball operations, earlier this year.
Sylvan Lake Gulls ticket sales off to flying start

With the inaugural season quickly closing in, the Sylvan Lake Gulls hit… Continue reading

Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s chief medical health officer publicly criticizes staffer who leaked info

EDMONTON — Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, dealing with rocketing COVID-19… Continue reading

The RCMP major crimes unit is investigating after a person was found dead at a residence on Stewart Street in Red Deer’s Sunnybrook neighbourhood Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Red Deer RCMP investigating suspicious death in Sunnybrook

A ‘deceased adult’ was found by officers

A detail from Canyon Light, an oil painting by Joan Clement, in the Scale exhibit by members of the Red Deer Art Club. It’s showing at the Viewpoint Gallery in the city’s Culture Services Centre. (Contributed image).
Outdoor art gallery and scavenger hunt is on in Red Deer next month

But First Friday receptions and patio concerts are postponed

Mahomes vs. Brady spices up Thanksgiving holiday week

Mahomes vs. Brady spices up Thanksgiving holiday week

Cowboys miss chance for NFC East lead with another home loss

Cowboys miss chance for NFC East lead with another home loss

Arsenal, Leicester, Hoffenheim advance in Europa League

Arsenal, Leicester, Hoffenheim advance in Europa League

Keegan Messing performs during the Men's Short program at the 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. If the world figure skating championships do go ahead in a bubble in March in Sweden, there is a good chance Canada won't be there. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canada might not compete at world figure skating championships – if they happen

Canada might not compete at world figure skating championships - if they happen

A piece of hockey history is up for sale, with a rare Vancouver Millionaires sweater, seen in an undated handout photo, hitting the auction block. The cream and maroon wool cardigan is believed to have belonged to Hall of Fame goalie Hugh Lehman, who backstopped the Millionaires to a Pacific Coast Hockey Association championship in 1922-23. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Lelands Auction, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Hockey history up for sale as 97-year-old Vancouver Millionaires sweater hits auction

Hockey history up for sale as 97-year-old Vancouver Millionaires sweater hits auction

Canada’s Nembhard scores 11 points off the bench in Gonzaga debut

Canada’s Nembhard scores 11 points off the bench in Gonzaga debut

Mighty Heart is breezed by exercise rider Des McMahon, at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. Woodbine Entertainment says it has officially cancelled the rest of its thoroughbred racing season following discussions with the Ontario government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Woodbine Racetrack ends horse racing season after talks with provincial government

Woodbine Racetrack ends horse racing season after talks with provincial government

As Alberta’s COVID-19 cases rise, so does tension over world junior championship

As Alberta’s COVID-19 cases rise, so does tension over world junior championship

Most Read