Tulsa, Akla. – The last bird in a strong wind in Oklahoma gave Justin Thomas another 3 – to 67 and set a terrible goal for Rory McIlroy and everyone else on Friday at the PGA Championships.
Trees swayed and flags gushed from the opening of the tee, and ammunition in the 60s on the South Hills was scarce.
This did not stop Thomas, who relied on creativity in the form of throws, even on the patting green. He made just one shot from the bunker on Par-3 14th and finished his steady round with a 10-foot bird strike.
That led him to a 6-to-134, one shot ahead of Rory McIlroy, who made his way to the first one shortly after Thomas finished.
McIlroy and Tiger Woods faced what are usually tougher conditions in the afternoon, although the wind is forecast to subside. John Ram, who fought off 69, didn’t buy it.
“They said the wind would subside this afternoon. No, it’s not. This is Oklahoma, ”Ram said. “It will remain as windy as ours.”
Thomas can only hope so. Southern Hills ’legacy is that all seven major champions – three at the US Open and four at the PGA – had at least a share of the 36-hole lead.
“If I maintain leadership, I hope this trend continues,” Thomas said.
Of those who played on Friday morning, Thomas had a three-shot lead over Matt Fitzpatrick, 69, who has never won in America but seems to play best when tougher.
The only other players from this early group to finish two rounds below the score were Oklahoma native Talor Guch, who had 16 pairs, one birdie and one scarecrow in 1/70; Joaquin Niemann from Chile (71) and Bernd Wisberger from Austria (67). There were 1 to 139 of them.
McIlroy was in the same group with Woods and Jordan Spit, one of them trying to stay on top, the other two hoping to make it to the weekend. Woods opened with 74, looking to be around the cut line.
Thomas was not so well in trend when he entered the only major he won, PGA 2017 in Quail Hollow. He has been without a win for 14 months. At the beginning of the week he felt not the best way, a combination of viral infection and allergies.
Everything changed on the course he first saw just last week when he joined Spieth for a workout.
He opened with a pair of short birds at № 10 and par-5 13th, with a hard pair on the way illustrating the effect of the wind. From 50 feet from the 12th green he sent the patt to the right and allowed the wind to push him to the hole. He still had 6 feet and did it at par.
Thomas spent a 25-foot bird on the fifth par-5 and finished his round with his fourth bird. He treated every blow with respect, even blows that would normally be seen as shocks.
“Although I played well yesterday, today I played very, very well,” Thomas said. “The conditions were obviously very difficult. I was very patient, trying to get into my own little world and get into the zone and just trying to execute every hit as best I could.
“I’m glad I have a good round to show it.”
The force of the wind can greatly affect who gets stuck on the weekend. Masters champion Scotty Scheffler scored 3 bets for the double rampage at № 9 to finish 75, leaving him at 6 over 146 and very at risk of missing the cut.
Dustin Johnson had another 73 and found himself in the same position. At least they had hope. Patrick Cantlay was 75 and was 11 over, the first time he missed a cut in the PGA.
Brooks Koepka avoided such a share with 67 points, comparing Thomas and Visberger with a low score in the morning. The difference from opening 75 to him was easy to decipher.
“You can’t play out of rudeness. It’s simple, ”Kapka said. “If you’re going to put it in the rough, it’s going to be pretty hard to even bring the ball closer.”
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