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Five Things We Learned: Thursday at the PGA Championship

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It was a year ago that we the north, found ourselves with toes and fingers crossed. The Oak Hill PGA Championship of 2023 finished on schedule, despite the iffiness of weather in upstate New York. It’s 75 degrees today across the Niagara Frontier, which makes it two out of three (2022 was the same way) for sultry, unseasonal weather.

Louisville is, let’s be honest, a much better bet for a May PGA Championship, and Valhalla is an exciting venue for the year’s second major championship on the men’s circuit. Brooks Koepka came in as the defending champion, and Rory McIlroy arrived as the last golfer to win a major at the Nicklaus-designed course. That was a decade ago, and lord, have things changed in the world and golf.

Day one at Valhalla offered walk-in eagles, buckets of birdies, and potential for a record-low, winner’s score. We’ll get right to the meat of the matter, with five things that we learned. After all, if you can make par from the muck, anything’s possible in the land of the horses.

1. X marks this spot

Xander Schauffele went head-to-head last Sunday with Rory McIlroy, at least on the practice green. By the end of the round, Rors had won for a fourth time at Charlotte, while the X Man sat scratching his head, wondering what went wrong. Fortunately for us, Xander didn’t sulk.

The San Diego State alumnus absolutely torched Jack’s track with 62. Four birdies on the front nine, were followed by five more on the inward side. Schauffele never looked as if bogey was a consideration, and he might have gone even lower. Despite winning the Covid-delayed Gold medal at the Japan Olympics (I consider it a major, btdubs) Schauffele continues to chase an initial men’s major, and the validation that it brings. If 62 doesn’t get you over the hump, who knows what will.

2. Scottie starts strong? Aye.

Last month, Mr. Scheffler won a second green jacket at Augusta National. Last year in Rochester, Mr. Scheffler tied for second in this event. Mr. Scheffler began play today with a walk-in eagle, a one-hop affair that never looked as if it might go anywhere but to its home. Scheffler had a few rough holes, but that’s to be expected from a new dad. Each time he made bogey, he bounced back with birdie, so he has that short memory that winners crave. Surprisingly, Scheffler failed to manage one last birdie at the reachable 18th. Perhaps that miss will motivate him in round two.

3. LIV Check-In

It’s good to check in on the departed from time to time, to ensure that the fellows formerly known as PGA Tour members are doing well. It’s safe to say that some of them can still play. Defending champion Brooks Koepka posted 67 on the day, He had an eagle and three birdies on the day, with only a stumble at the 17th. He’s tied for 7th. Bryson DeChambeau made an eagle of his own, but also had a bogey, at the 12th hole. He cohabits eleventh position with Cameron Smith, who ALSO had a bogey on his card. They are one shot behind Koepka, and a fistful more behind the leader.

4. Sahith and Tony at Schauffele’s heels

Both Finau and Theegala represent a special sort of athletic golfer. Their power and their charisma blend to draw golf fans to their groups. Let’s be honest, too, and say that they don’t look like the traditional professional golfer. As much as Tiger Woods did in the 1990s, they have the power to bring greater diversity to the sport.

In terms of their play today, well, only Xander was better. Finau had a clean card, with six birdies and twelve pars. Theegala had seven birdies, ten pars, and one bogey. Each combined power and finesse to insert themselves squarely in contention, ahead of round two. How will they, and Xander as well, manage the afternoon putting surface on Friday? That’s the great unknown!

5. All those other guys are here!

Rory, Tom Kim, Collin, and Viktor are all at minus-three or lower. Valhalla may not be a traditional golf course, but it is the type of course that the world’s best play well. McIlroy currently sits at minus-five, tied with Robert MacIntyre, Kim, and three others in fourth position.  Maverick McNealy finished fast to reach the same figure, as did Tom Hoge. Morikawa closed with birdie to join the sextet at five below. Both Scheffler and Morikawa finished their rounds late on Thursday, meaning they should see smoother greens on Friday morning. If someone is a betting soul, wiser wagers could not be placed on better names than those two, two-time, major champions. Rory will tee off in Friday’s afternoon wave but, hey, he’s Rory, and he won going away last week at Quail Hollow, a course not unlike Valhalla.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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Equipment

Spotted: Phil Mickelson testing Callaway’s mini driver

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There is some serious equipment testing going on at Pinehurst’s legendary No. 2 course before the 2024 U.S. Open starts! We spotted renowned club tinkerer Phil Mickelson on the range with a new setup. He was testing out the new Callaway Paradym Ai Smoke Ti 340 Mini Driver with a new Mitsubishi Diamana BB (Blue Board) shaft.

Phil has long been a mini driver/2-wood/strong 3-wood guy, as he was the inspiration for the Callaway “Phranken Wood” about 10 years ago. For many pros, adding a strong 3-wood or mini driver allows them to turn it over easier and add a more consistent draw to their bag off the tee without losing too much distance.

Mitsubishi’s Diamana BB is the newest mid-launch shaft in the Diamana line. The “BB” on the shaft of course references the iconic Blue Board shafts from 20 years ago and this model will have a similar smooth feel.

 

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Tour Photo Galleries

Photos from the 2024 U.S. Open

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GolfWRX is live this week from the third major of the season: the U.S. Open at historic Pinehurst No. 2.

Qualifier WITBs are the stars the the show so far — along with in-hand looks at what Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau are playing.

Check back throughout the week as we continue to add more galleries.  

General Albums

WITB Albums

Pullout Albums

See what GolfWRXers are saying about the photos from the U.S. Open in the forums. 

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News

Morning 9: Scott, Garcia in for U.S. Open | Clark: Greens already borderline | Harrington inducted to HOF

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By Ben Alberstadt with Gianni Magliocco.

For comments: [email protected]

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans, as we look ahead to what is sure to be an exciting U.S. Open!

1. USO field additions

Brian DePasquale for the USGA…”Two additional players, including Adam Scott, have earned full exemptions into the 124th U.S. Open Championship…Additionally, four alternates from final qualifying were added to complete the 156-player field.”

  • “Robert MacIntyre earned an exemption based on the current Official World Golf Ranking®/OWGR®…”
  • “Scott, who is No. 61 in the OWGR, became exempt when the late Grayson Murray (No. 59) was removed from the list for purposes of determining the top 60. Scott will compete in his 23rd consecutive U.S. Open…”
  • “The USGA held six spots in the field for those players who could potentially become exempt. Since MacIntyre and Scott were the only players to earn an exemption, four alternates from final qualifying were added to the field. They are Sergio Garcia, amateur Brendan Valdes, Otto Black and Maxwell Moldovan.”
Full piece.

2. Charlie on hand to assist dad with U.S. Open prep

Justin Tasch for the NY Post…”Tiger Woods was all smiles Monday morning in Pinehurst as he practiced for this week’s U.S. Open with his 15-year-old son, Charlie.”

  • “Charlie helped his dad prepare as they traversed Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina, where Woods is set to tee off Thursday for the first time since missing the cut at last month’s PGA Championship in Louisville.”
  • “The father-son duo was spotted at various points Monday morning with Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.”
Full piece.

3. Clark says U.S. Open greens already ‘borderline’

Elliott Heath for Golf Monthly…”Defending US Open champion Wyndham Clark says that this week’s greens at Pinehurst No.2 “already are borderline” ahead of what is set to be a stern test of golf at the USA’s 124th national open.”

  • “Clark won his maiden Major title at LACC last year, where he pipped Rory McIlroy by a single stroke. He won his third PGA Tour title at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier this year and moved up to a career-high of 3rd in the world.”
  • “The greens are extremely fast and penal. You hit it on the green, the hole is not done. I was just amazed how fast the greens are. Yeah, I mean, they are extremely fast. If they get any firmer and faster, the greens, I mean, they’d be borderline. They already are borderline,” Clark said on Pinehurst’s famously undulating putting surfaces, before admitting that sometimes it’s better to miss a green in the right spot than hit it in the wrong position.”
Full piece.

4. Harrington reflects ahead of HOF induction

PGATOUR.COM: What comes to mind as you prepare for your induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame and reflect on your career?

PADRAIG HARRINGTON: When you’re winning, when you’re going through it, you kind of expect that it’s going to continue to happen so you don’t get too caught up in it. You tend to just get on with it. You’re always thinking about the next win. Whereas at this time in my career and with the Hall of Fame looming, it is very much time to take stock and have a nice reflection on what I’ve done. And it’s very satisfying.

PGATOUR.COM: What is the source of that satisfaction?

HARRINGTON: Well, I think I’ve always felt I’ve far exceeded my own expectations. But when you get to the Hall of Fame, you realize that actually you’ve achieved on a whole different level. There’s not that many golfers that get into it. You don’t get into the Hall of Fame for anything but your performances. That’s it. This is an opportunity to look back and say, ‘You know what? You did well.’

PGATOUR.COM: You’ve said before that you weren’t the guy who looked destined to be great. What was your secret to getting the most out of your talents?

HARRINGTON: I was always somebody who just did it, got it done.

Full piece.

5. More bad news for Hataoka

Golf Channel staff…”After being disqualified from last week’s ShopRite LPGA Classic, Nasa Hataoka has slipped from Japan’s final qualifying spot for the Olympic women’s golf event.”

  • “Ayaka Furue now holds Japan’s second of two currently available positions. Furue tied for second this past week to move to 19th in the latest Rolex Rankings. Hataoka dropped to 20th.”
  • “Hataoka opened in 65 at the ShopRite but was DQ’d ahead of Saturday’s second round when officials determined that she took too long to find a lost ball on Friday, and subsequently, played her next shot from the wrong spot.”
Full Piece.

6. Weather ahead at Pinehurst

PGATour.com staff report…

  • Thursday: Low chance of rain beginning in the afternoon with increased temperatures in the evening. Low: 68F, High: 90F. Winds: 4-10 mph, gusting at 15 mph.
  • Friday: Rising temperatures and scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon, 40% chance of showers. Low: 68F, High: 92F. Winds: 4-10 mph, gusting at 15 mph.
  • Saturday: Rising temperatures and scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon, 40% chance of showers. Low: 68F, High: 92F. Winds: 4-8 mph, gusting at 12 mph.
  • Sunday: Heat expected throughout the day with 20% chance of showers. Low: 68F, High: 92F. Winds: 4-10 mph, gusting at 15 mph.
Full Piece.

7. Ortiz: I deserve to be at U.S. Open

Joel Kulasingham for Golf Monthly…”Carlos Ortiz says he deserves to be teeing off at this week’s US Open, despite failing to qualify for the tournament at Pinehurst No.2.”

  • “The 33-year-old Mexican claimed his first LIV Golf victory in Houston on Sunday thanks to a five-under final round to hang on to a one-shot win over Adrian Meronk, who missed a birdie on his last hole to miss a playoff.
  • “The world No.237 still had a chance to get into the tournament through US Open qualifying in Dallas three weeks ago, but a double bogey on the final hole scuppered any hopes of joining the 13 other LIV players teeing it up in Pinehurst on Thursday.
  • “I’ve been playing great. It’s a shame I doubled the last hole to miss the qualifier. It hurt a lot,” Ortiz admitted.
  • “But despite not doing enough in qualifying, Ortiz – like many of his LIV colleagues – lamented the current state of professional golf, and says he deserves to be playing at the US Open as “one of the best players in the world right now”.
  • “I think with time, we’re going to get back into the Majors because I know that I’m one of the best players in the world right now, and I deserve to be there. But the way things are happening right now, it’s kind of hard.”
Full Piece.

8. Carnage on the way?

9. U.S. Open photos

  • Check out all of our galleries from this week’s major event!
Full Piece.
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