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Monday, May 20, 2024

Carlow Nationalist — Xander Schauffele equals major record again with brilliant opening 62 at US PGA

By Phil Casey, PA Golf Correspondent, Louisville

Xander Schauffele equalled the lowest score in men’s major championship history for the second time in 11 months in the first round of the 106th US PGA Championship at Valhalla.

Schauffele took advantage of ideal conditions for the early starters at Valhalla to fire nine birdies in a stunning 62, matching the mark set by Branden Grace in the 2017 Open and equalled by Rickie Fowler and Schauffele himself in the opening round of last year’s US Open.

Starting from the 10th, Schauffele made birdies at the 11th, 13th, 15th, 16th and 18th to reach the turn in 31 and picked up further shots on the second, fourth and fifth.

A two-putt birdie on the par-five seventh took the Olympic champion to nine under par and he safely parred the final two holes to break the course record of 63 set by Jose Maria Olazabal in 2000.

“It feels great,” Schauffele said. “It’s just day one but if someone had said I was going to shoot nine under I would certainly have taken it.

“I’ve been playing some really good golf, having a lot of close calls, so me and my team say why not keep chugging along?

“I’m very happy with the way I played but I can’t really think much more about it, just got to go and tee it up again tomorrow.”

Despite such a low score, Schauffele was only three shots clear of compatriots Tony Finau and Sahith Theegala, with Rory McIlroy and Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre another stroke back.

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy hits from the rough on the second hole during the first round of the US PGA Championship (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

McIlroy’s 66 matched the opening round he posted on his way to victory at Valhalla in 2014 and represented an impressive effort in his first competitive round since it emerged he had filed for divorce from his wife of seven years, Erica, on Monday.

The world number two’s round was in danger of falling apart when he followed two early birdies with a bogey on the 17th and a tee shot into the water on the 18th, a fate he famously avoided by a few feet in the final round a decade ago.

However, after taking a penalty drop and pitching out on to the fairway, McIlroy hit a superb approach to seven feet to save par and then hit the pin with his second shot on the next to set up a short-range birdie.

“That was huge,” McIlroy admitted. “I could have easily bogeyed 18 and been back to even par, and then that ball on one could have hit the flagstick and went anywhere. I could have made bogey from that.

“Potentially being one over par through 10, I’m two under so it’s a three-shot difference. It’s a big swing.”

McIlroy made the most of that swing with a hat-trick of birdies from the fifth, including a chip-in on the sixth, and added: “I thought I got a lot out of my game today. Some good up-and-downs, the chip-in on six.

“I had a little bit of a scrappy part around the turn there. Not really happy with how I played but at least happy with the score.”

MacIntyre finished 13th in the Myrtle Beach Classic last week after struggling to establish himself on the PGA Tour this season and credited his improved form on a trip back to Scotland.

“It’s no secret I’ve been living in America and its been tough. It’s not like Oban,” the left-hander said.

“When I go back home, it’s a lot of friends and family you get to spend time with, my nieces, everyone that’s close to me and really cares for me.

“When I’m in America, it’s just me and my girlfriend and we’re trying to live as good a life as we can. But it’s difficult when we’re both so close to family and friends.

“I got three weeks at home there and hardly touched the golf clubs, done some stupid stuff and just enjoyed myself.”



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