KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Carl Pettersson started quickly in favorable conditions, then held on as the wind picked up around Kiawah Island for a 6-under-par 66 that left him with a one-stroke lead as the PGA Championship’s first round continued.
The self-proclaimed “Swedish Redneck” went bogey-free around the Ocean Course, carding five birdies in his first 10 holes and adding his last on the par-5 16th to keep a step in front of Rory McIlroy and Gary Woodland.
“Because there was no wind the first few holes, I knew it was gettable today,” said Pettersson, the son of an international executive who was born in Gothenburg and later grew up in Raleigh, N.C.
“I didn’t quite see a 66 out there, but it was important to shoot under par today for sure.”
Pettersson spent much of the day trailing Dutch pro Joost Luiten, whose sizzling start took him to 8-under with four holes left in his round. But Luiten bogeyed each of his last four holes, leaving him two shots back by day’s end.
“I was just a little bit too aggressive with my putts on [Nos.] 6 and 7,” Luiten said. “I was in the birdie mode and when you are thinking like that, all you want to do is try and make more birdies.”
Defending champion Keegan Bradley, winner of last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and 1991 PGA winner John Daly also were two shots back after 68s. For Daly, it was his lowest PGA start since the 2007 edition at Southern Hills.
Korean pro K.T. Kim joined them at 4-under through 11 holes of his afternoon round. Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano was 4-under with two holes to play.
Tiger Woods opened with a 69, shrugging off a slow start to card just one bogey over his final 13 holes. It was the third consecutive major at which Woods had broken 70, though he’s still trying to break a four-year drought of major titles.
“Anything in the 60s is going to be a good start in a major championship,” Woods said, “and I’m right there.”
After three days of thunderstorms around Kiawah Island, sunshine greeted golfers this morning with only a breath of wind.
“I’m expecting this to be the best day of the week,” McIlroy said. “I think everyone is. We know that there’s going to be a bit of wind coming in and maybe a bit of bad weather. … I have a great platform to go from.”
Of the 78 players who have completed their rounds, 25 broke par at an Ocean Course ranked among the nation’s toughest by the U.S. Golf Association rating standards. Nine more came in at even-par 72.
Adam Scott, who let the British Open title slip from his grasp with a four-bogey finish at Royal Lytham, was at 3-under through his afternoon round. That was one better than Ernie Els, who was the beneficiary of Scott’s late collapse.
U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, playing his first round in a month after the birth of his second child, was struggling at 6-over through 12 holes. Masters winner Bubba Watson was even-par through 13.
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