There was a lot of craziness, a lot of storylines Thursday at the 2017 PGA Championship.
What else would you expect when the PGA Of America chose former wrestling champion Ric Flair to pimp the action?
Flair may have been a Rolex-wearin’, jet-flyin’, limousine-ridin’ son-of-a-gun, but the dude’s got nothing on today’s PGA Tour stars, most of whom sport Rolexes, fly private jets and ride in whatever they want to. They were all there Thursday.
The first round at Quail Hollow had its cast of characters.
First, there’s a Thunder Bear. Sounds like one of Flair’s wrestling opponents back in the day but it is actually Thorbjorn Olesen from the European Tour. The 27-year-old Dane, whose real name is Jacob, jumped on top early with a 67. First time in his life he’s ever led at a major.
Olesen, who has just four European Tour wins on his resume, isn’t that familiar to Americans but he managed to tame a difficult Quail Hollow course that brought a lot of players to their collective knees in the first round.
By day’s end, Olesen shared the top spot with Kevin Kisner.
Neither of those guys are going to scare anyone.
Big Name Players Come Through:
Most of the world’s best showed up ready on day one.
No. 1 Dustin Johnson’s 70 put him in the thick of it. No. 2 Jordan Spieth kept his Grand Slam dreams alive. Thirty-two putts cost him and he finished with 72. Hottest man coming in shot 70 — Hideki Matsuyama, world’s No. 2.
Pre-tournament favorite Rory McIlroy hit some massively long drives but could only manage a 72 thanks to not-so-great distance control with his irons. Masters champ Sergio Garcia’s 75 left him in danger of missing the cut. Jon Rahm played with Rory and clipped him by a pair, finishing with 70. Jason Day shot 70, really, he did. Bad day for the Swedes. Henrik Stenson and Alex Noren shot 74s while Rickie Fowler put himself squarely in the hunt with a masterful 69, despite the fact that he took a triple-bogey seven at the fifth hole.
In all, there are plenty of name players to make up for the co-leaders.
John Daly Was One-Under Through 16:
There was almost a miracle on day one. Former champ John Daly, who sports the biggest gut in the field, was one-under par through 16 holes but couldn’t finish the dreaded Green Mile without problems. A bogey at 17 then a triple at the difficult 18th gave him a 74 for the day. Still, he beat a lot of better, younger players.
Former champ Rich Beem wasn’t as fortunate. Beemer shot 82. Time to give it up, Beemer.
Mickelson Grinds To Shoot 79:
If you watched him play Thursday, it is painfully clear that the major championship window of opportunity is closing on Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson was eight-over for the day going to the heart-breaking 18th. No birdies for Lefty. Long day.
There he was, standing over a 10-footer for 79. Lefty was grinding like all-get-out to break 80. He made it. A 79 sounds a helluva lot better than the dreaded snowman.
Brooks Koepka Draws Blood:
The U.S. Open champion came out of the starting blocks fast. He had birdie putts on each of the first three holes, all inside 10 feet and didn’t make any of them. At the 16th hole, Brooks Koepka launched an errant drive and it caught a marshal on the head. He was knocked down, bleeding and needed medical attention. Koepka waited until the marshal was helped then gave him a signed glove and said he’d check on him after the round.
Obviously shaken, Koepka bogeyed the hole. “To be honest with you,” Koepka later said, “I felt like crap.” Koepka recovered from the incident, went on to shoot 68 and the stricken marshal was doing fine.
Jimmy Walker Won’t Repeat As Champion:
Defending champion Jimmy Walker won’t be successful in his title defense. He probably won’t be around for the weekend. Walker had a terrible day and shot 81.
Ernie Els, who made this his 100th major championship appearance, along with Mickelson, shot a forgettable 80.
It was a day of good, bad and ugly.
Best shot of the day was Joost Luiten’s hole-in-one a the 184-yard fourth hole. It didn’t help much, however, he still shot 76.
Average score was around 75.
It was that tough and conditions were perfect.
It will only get tougher over the next 54-holes.
Count on it.