STEVE STRICKER has blitzed the opening round of the 2011 US PGA Championship with a record equalling seven-under 63.
On the punishing Atlanta Athletic Club course Americans hold the top four positions in the championship with John Kelly on 5-under, Shaun Micheel on 4-under and Scott Verplank 3-under.
John Senden leads the Australian charge on 2-under. Adam Scott is in red figures on 1-under while Jason Day dropped four shots on his final four holes, including a double bogey on the difficult18th.
Stricker matched the lowest round in major championship history with a flawless display of accuracy and great putting,
He made seven birdies in a bogey free round on a course where many good golfers were consistently finding the water.
Stricker had a chance to break the record with a birdie putt on his final hole of the day, the par-4 ninth, but he missed the 15-footer.
“I realized it was for 62,” Stricker said. “But I didn’t realize it was for history.”
The final four holes were flagged before the tournament as deal breakers and 23 year old Day admitted to being a “little heated” when he allowed them to spoil his round.
“I was playing really, really nicely, (3-under through 14 holes) and then just the last four holes got me, so hopefully I can just have a better round tomorrow,” he said. “… I can’t do anything about what happened today. I can only go on and try and improve on the score.
“I’m going to try and get through the last four holes tomorrow in even par if I can and try and attack the rest of the course.”
Scott began well but twice found the water off the tee and missed two short putts, including on his last, for an up and down round of five birdies and four bogeys. Senden too had three birdies up his sleave before bogeying the last.
US Open winner Rory McIlroy had a problem with a root on the third, as young men often do, smashing his seven iron and injuring his wrist.
After an examination, a physiotherapist decided McIlroy couldn’t do any more damage if he continued playing and the young Northern Irishman battled on gamely with further treatment, icings and bandaging throughout the remainder of his round to finish with a very courageous even par 70.
Of other notables, Luke Donald and Nick Watney were on even, Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood on 1-over, Robert Allenby and Sergio Garcia on 2-over, Steve Elkington on 3-over and Geoff Ogilvy on 5-over.
Tiger Woods started nicely with three birdies but fell in a heap to finish 77, a score he shared with Australia’s Aaron Baddeley.
The 2011 US PGA Championship is being telecast live in Australia on Fox Sports.
Round 2, Saturday, 4am to 9am; Round 3, Sunday, 4.30 am to 9am; Final Round, Monday, 4.30am to 9am.2011 US PGA Championship Leaderboard