Kevin Kisner and Thorbjorn Olesen made the most out of a tough day of putting to sit tied for the lead at the PGA Championship at 4-under.
Each man shot a 67 with Kisner, a native of the South, giving himself a reliable strategy at Charlotte’s Quail Hollow course.
He targeted 4-5 holes where he though he could make a birdie and went for par everywhere else.
“I birdied them all today,” Kisner said. “Make a lot of pars and get to a par 5 or one of those short par 4s, I can do my wedge game and get it to 10 or 12 feet. That’s my plan. Other than that, I’m playing for par.”
Kisner tied for 18th at last year’s PGA Championship. His best Major finish to date was a tie for 12th at the 2015 US Open.
Olesen didn’t reveal a strategy, but he birdied most of the same holes Kisner and drained a 30-footer on No. 18.
“It was a little bit of a safe shot into the green,” he said. “That’s what can happen on this golf course. When you play safe into the greens, you give yourself very tricky putts, like the one I had — downhill, left to right. It was very, very fast. But it was just a very good roll. So it was nice to see that one drop.”
Olesen has not finished higher than 30th since the end of the 2014 Major season. His last 11 chances at Majors have resulted in eight DNPs, two cuts missed and a tie for 62nd at The Open Championship last month. He finished tied for sixth at the 2013 Masters and tied for ninth at the 2012 Open Championship.
US Open champion Brooks Koepka is one of five players tied for third at 68. Koepka had six misses on putts inside of 12 feet.
“It’s going to test your patience one way or another,” Koepka said. “That’s just a major. You’ve got to stay patient. You can’t make doubles out here. That’s the big thing. Make sure the worst score you make is a bogey and give yourself a couple of good chances on the easier holes.”
Seven players are tied for eighth at 2-under including American Ryder Cup teammates Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler.
Sitting at 1-under include WGC-Bridgestone winner Hideki Matsuyama, Top 10 Spaniard Jon Rahm, former No. 1 Jason Day, and current No. 1 Dustin Johnston.
Johnston was 2-under through 10 but had two bogeys the rest of the way. Day was all over the map, 2-over through the first three holes before rallying with a birdie on 5, an eagle on 7 and another birdie on 8 to hit the turn at 2-under. He had two bogeys and a birdie the rest of the way.
The tournament’s two betting favorites, Rory McIlroy and Open Championship winner Jordan Spieth, are both tied for 33rd at 1-over. McIlroy had four birdies in the first 10 holes but also a pair of bogeys. He was near the top of the leaderboard through 12 until he bogeyed 13 and doubled 14 to fall a stroke over par.
Spieth looked like a nervous wreck early on, already at 3-over through six. He changed directions with back-to-back birdies on 7 and 8 and reached even par with a birdie on 15 before bogeying 16 to fall back to a stroke over par.
Defending champion Jimmy Walker had about as bad a first round as you can get, a disastrous 10-over 81 that left him tied for 144th out of 156 entries. Walker bogeyed four of the first six holes and was 8-over through 13 before finally making a birdie on 15.
He wasn’t the only one with an ugly first round. Ernie Els shot an 80, Phil Mickelson a 79, and Bubba Watson a 77.