Grace holds it together in PGA Championship 1st round

May 21, 2021 | Featured, South Africans abroad

Branden Grace held things together in trying conditions on Thursday in the opening round of the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island as he carded a two-under-par 70 to have a share of eighth place.

In extremely testing winds, Grace made four birdies and a bogey on his opening nine to turn at three-under, but two drops and a single birdie on his way in saw him finish up three shots off the pace of first-round leader Corey Conners of Canada. Conners led by two from Keegan Bradley, Viktor Hovland, Brooks Koepka, Aaron Wise, Sam Horsfield and Cam Davis. Grace shared eighth with eight other players.

Louis Oosthuizen was one of just 30 players who recorded opening rounds under par with his one-under. He was joined by Christiaan Bezuidenhout as one of those players. Next best of the 11 South Africans in the field was Erik van Rooyen at level-par, while Dylan Frittelli and Garrick Higgo were also handily placed at one-over.

Dean Burmester also dealt with conditions well with his two-over, as did George Coetzee and Daniel van Tonder at three-over. Further adrift of the pace were Charl Schwartzel at four-over and bringing up the rear of the South African challenge was Brandon Stone at six-over in a share of 127th.

Dustin Johnson, the number one player in the world in the midst of his worst stretch in nearly two years, took a double bogey from a wild tee shot on the front nine and a double bogey on the 18th for a 76. He’s in jeopardy of missing the cut in consecutive majors in the same year for the first time in his career.

Justin Thomas took double bogey on the 18th hole in the morning and two holes later sent a sand shot over the green and just into a hazard for another six on the par-five second. He had a 75.

Rory McIlroy, coming off a victory at Quail Hollow two weeks ago, sent his opening tee shot into a water hazard. He salvaged a bogey, but certainly not his round. McIlroy made bogey on three of the par-fives for a 75, his worst start ever in a PGA Championship.

Jordan Spieth, who needs a victory to complete the career Grand Slam, shot 73.

Conners birdied all the par-fives, made a couple of long putts for birdie and dropped only on shot. It looked almost stress-free compared to how the rest of the field fared. “I’d say it’s impossible to be stress-free around this golf course,” Conners said. “You can’t fall asleep out there on any holes. It’s very challenging. I was fortunate to have a good day. Made it as least stressful as possible on myself.”

With a stiff wind into his face for his last five holes, the 29-year-old Canadian played the tough closing stretch in two-under, one of those birdies a 55-foot putt from just short of the green.

It won’t get any easier. The forecast? No rain, more wind.

With reporting from

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