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PGA Thursday: DeChambeau, Scheffler shine after frost delay while McIlroy, Rahm struggle

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  • Josh Durso 

It was a bright, sunny, stunning day at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York for the first round of the PGA Championship.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

As of writing this look at the first round there’s much golf to be played. In fact, there’s a decent chance that some guys from the afternoon wave are out there finishing up tomorrow morning. That’ll happen when it starts with a frost delay.

File it under, “Things that will happen in Upstate New York during spring.”

When the frost cleared, though, the sun came out- and for the first time all week- wind wasn’t a factor. This wasn’t lost on players, and several noted that conditions today could be the most ideal all week. While there were a bunch of players under par- no one blew the doors off the course.

Most made their way to posting good numbers by doing as Scottie Scheffler said during his post-round interview: Keeping the golf course in front them.

Oak Hill Country Club is not the longest golf course these guys will play all year. It also rewards selective risk. Especially with tree removal over the last several years. That said, as players came off the course on Thursday it was clear the theme was take what Oak Hill gave you.

Bryson DeChambeau finished his round with the lead. He shot a 66, which exceeded most expectations for him. DeChambeau has struggled most of this year, and the biggest question lobbed at him ahead of the PGA involved his physical appearance, which is a far cry from what people have seen over the last few years.

Reflecting on that round he called it a “fantastic round of golf,” noting that Oak Hill is a “very difficult golf course.” DeChambeau said he wasn’t sure how shooting under par was even possible, given the course setup. The wind howled during those practice rounds, and will likely be a factor on Friday, so par could be a fantastic score in round two. But hitting fairways and making putts proved to be his recipe for success. “It can get pretty nasty pretty quick if you’re not hitting it straight. You have to drive it well and hit your irons well.”

After the frost cleared it was a bright, sunny day at Oak Hill Country Club with highs in the mid-60s.

For Scottie Scheffler, the world’s No. 2 golfer, who was just one back of DeChambeau at the conclusion of his round, finishing bogey free was the result of playing good, consistent golf.

“This place is pretty tough,” Scheffler said in his post-round interview. “I came into today’s round just trying to play solid golf. I kept the course in front of me for the most part and hit some really godo tee shots on the most important holes. Then I had some nice saves as well.”

Scheffler said it best about Oak Hill: “It’s just one of those places where you hit one shot maybe barely offline and end up in a place where it’s pretty penalizing.”

For Scheffler’s round, there were several key saves, but among the most notable was the up-and-down from the fringe on #1. “It was a kind of good example of me keeping the course in front of me where if I try and force something over by the pin it may have come up short in the bunker, and then I would have been in some trouble.”

A similar situation played out on #2 allowing him to keep the round’s momentum in tact. “There’s really not many birdie opportunities out there, so if you can limit the mistakes good things will happen, I guess.” His expectations for tomorrow are breezy; and that’s exactly what the forecast has in store for players at Oak Hill.

For the good of round one that Scheffler and DeChambeau experienced- Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm had the opposite.

McIlroy fired a 1-over par opening round. And while that wasn’t as bad as it could have been- the No. 3 player in the world felt like it was about as bad as it could have gotten. “I didn’t hit the ball well at all,” he said in his post-round presser. “Thought I did really well to shoot what I did. It’s tough. A lot of crosswinds. Felt like it was pretty tricky to hit fairways, once you’re in the rough, it’s just a matter of trying to hit up somewhere near the green and make par.”

He admitted that scoring fell a bit below his expectations across the board. Even with as light as winds were- there was enough to make life difficult for these guys between the first tee and final putt on Thursday.

Another player that struggled was Jon Rahm. The No. 1 player in the world echoed the sentiment shared by McIlroy and others: Hitting fairways is crucial.

Rahm shot 6-over on opening day, leaving himself a lot of work to get back into contention- or even make the cut on Friday. “You don’t need to play perfect. The main thing on this course is hitting the fairway. If you put the ball in the fairway you can actually give yourself a lot of good chances,” he recounted.

Rahm achieved that for the first half dozen holes of his opening round. Then, things became a bit of a battle. “Obviously the first six, [or] seven holes of the day I played relaly good,” he continued. “Put myself in a good spot and after that I found myself battling. Couldn’t find the fairway and the fairways that I missed cost me bogeys.”

He also missed three short putts on the back nine. Three strokes Rahm would love to have back heading into Friday’s second round.

Photo Gallery From Thursday’s Opening Round