Playing in tough afternoon winds, none of the trio could match the six-under par 66 posted by first-round leader Dustin Johnson in the morning.
He added birdies on one, two and four, and his lone bogey, a failed up and down at the par-three third, was followed by a birdie at the fourth before he capped his round with a 10-foot par putt at the ninth. He shot a 68 to join a group that includes Jason Day and Matt Kuchar.
Johnson was quick to disagree with one question that his final rounds have not been as good as his opening rounds – by the numbers that might be true, though that doesn’t take into account that golf courses tend to play harder on the weekend in the majors. The heat was turned up literally and figuratively at Whistling Straits. We’ll just are have to see what happens. “It’s only the first round”.
When Jordan Spieth does well, it is good business for Under Armour. “The ankle feels great, it’s felt great all week”. But it was a big one.
Spieth finished the day with two birdies and a bogey, but he had his opportunities early in the round.
McIlroy and Jordan Spieth effectively played to a draw on Thursday as both shot a 71, even though that’s not the way to keep score. “The only way you can get used to it is to do it. There’s no other way to prepare for it”, he said. But it was fine. “I’m just happy to be back in contention and position”. “I was not looking to make that. I’m pleased with under par”.
That shot made for good TV.
“Sometimes I make a mistake of being too aggressive, whether it’s off the tee or on the greens”.
14th – A much better chance from just 10 feet, but again McIlroy can not convert.
“It was a game of two nines really, trying to hold on the front nine and then a few more chances on the back”.
“I guessed wrong”, he said.
And then he started to press, and it almost cost him. He missed a sharp-breaking birdie putt from 10 feet. He three-putted from about 15 feet on the par-5 11th for a bogey.
It hit the green and rolled straight into the cup.
“It’s a platform on which I can build now for the rest of the week”.
He got to two-under with birdies at 11 and 16 before dropping a shot at the last.
“On the back nine, after making a birdie at number 13, I was thinking that I’m going to shoot 27”. He couldn’t help but think of St. Andrews.
DUSTIN PART II: Johnson has the first part down.
Only Johnson struggled, never feeling comfortable on the tees as strengthening winds buffeted the stunning links-style layout on his way to an opening 75.
“I put some work in (on the range) last night and it paid off today”, said Coetzee, who won two European Tour events earlier this year before losing form over the past three months.
Tiger Woods carded 33 putts en route to a disappointing opening round of 75, three over, in the US PGA.