Sunday May 27th, 2018 1:04AM

Spieth has ground to make up in quest for Grand Slam

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Jordan Spieth only needs to win the PGA Championship to complete the career Grand Slam.

It just feels like he has to win another U.S. Open.

Quail Hollow presented a stern test in Thursday's opening round of the final major, primarily because of the firm, fast and frightening greens for which the U.S. Open is known. The result was the highest score to lead the first round of the PGA Championship in seven years, a 4-under 67 by Kevin Kisner and Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark.

Both made birdie on the 18th hole with lengthy putts that trickled — and trickled — into the cup.

"You need to be defensive on these greens — you have to," Spieth said after his 72 left him five shots behind. "I was defensive and still had to make 4- to 5-footers for par on a couple of them."

Spieth didn't make a putt longer than 5 feet — that was for par on his second hole. He still hit the ball so well that he grabbed two birdies late in the round that enabled him to keep the damage to a minimum. If he didn't make those birdies, he worried he might have shot himself out of the tournament.

"Given it's the first round, I know I'm still in it, but I know that tomorrow's round becomes that much more important," Spieth said. "If I'm five back at the start of the day, I've got to be less than five back after Friday to really feel like I can play the way this golf course needs to be played and still be able to win."

Spieth wasn't alone in his struggles.

Rory McIlroy, a two-time winner at Quail Hollow and the betting favorite to end his three-year drought in the majors, was cruising right along until a three-hole stretch on the back nine when two poor chips and one tee shot into the water cost him three shots. He also shot 72.

Rickie Fowler had six birdies, the kind of round that would put him in the lead — except for that triple bogey on the sixth hole.

For all the talk about this 7,600-yard course favoring the big hitters, the shortest club in the bag turned out to be just as valuable.

"Any time you have a putt down grain, downhill ... we just tap it and hope it stops by the hole," Jon Rahm said after a 70.

U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka led five players at 68. Koepka missed a half-dozen putts from 12 feet or closer, and while it looked as though he hit the ball well enough to go low at Quail Hollow, he wasn't the least bit frustrated.

"It's going to test your patience one way or another," Koepka said. "That's just a major. You've got to stay patient. You can't make doubles out here. That's the big thing. Make sure the worst score you make is a bogey and give yourself a couple of good chances on the easier holes."

That's the way Kisner approached it.

It helps that he grew up in the South and loves Bermuda greens. Given the size of Quail Hollow, Kisner drew up a simple plan. He identified four or five holes where he could make birdie, and he played for par everywhere else.

"I birdied them all today," Kisner said. "Make a lot of pars, and get to a par 5 or one of those short par 4s, I can do my wedge game and get it to 10 or 12 feet. That's my plan. Other than that, I'm playing for par."

The 18th was not one of the birdie holes he had in mind, especially with his ball nestled in the Bermuda rough 205 yards from the pin. Kisner thought the grass was thin enough behind the ball to get a 5-iron on it, and from there it was a matter of judging how much it would bounce. It ran up to the green about 20 feet away, and he used that rhythmic putting stroke to trickle it into the cup.

Olesen picked up birdies on most of the same holes, and he finished with a 30-foot birdie that also sounded like an accident.

"It was a little bit of a safe shot into the green," he said. "That's what can happen on this golf course. When you play safe into the greens, you give yourself very tricky putts, like the one I had — downhill, left-to-right. It was very, very fast. But it was just a very good roll. So it was nice to see that one drop."

Quail Hollow played to an average score of 74.7, making the PGA Championship look like the toughest test of the year in the majors. The PGA Championship typically features good scoring because it's held in August when water has to be kept on the greens to keep them from dying.

Just not this one.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Golf, AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Sports - PGA
© Copyright 2018
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Spieth has ground to make up in quest for Grand Slam
Jordan Spieth trying to win the PGA on greens that feel as though they belong at a US Open
2:45AM ( 10 minutes ago )
Kuwait says North Korean workers welcome then refutes itself
U.S. ally Kuwait tells the AP that North Korean workers remain welcome in country amid crisis, then later refutes itself
2:19AM ( 36 minutes ago )
Key events in India-Pakistan relations since Partition
Key events in India-Pakistan relations since Partition
1:54AM ( 1 hour ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Keenum leads Vikings to 17-10 preseason win over Bills
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater need not rush back from injury after Case Keenum showed glimpses of being a capable backup in the Minnesota Vikings' 17-10 preseason-opening win over the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night
11:52PM ( 3 hours ago )
Garrett struts stuff in debut as Browns beat Saints 20-14
Browns rookie Garrett has strong debut in 20-14 win over the New Orleans Saints.
11:21PM ( 3 hours ago )
Mayweather promoter tired of talk about ticket sales
Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, addressed the media Thursday regarding the ongoing inquiry about ticket sales for the upcoming Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor bout on Aug. 26
9:47PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Sports
The Latest: Kisner joins Olesen in share of the lead at PGA
The Latest: Kevin Kisner now has a share of the lead with Thorbjorn Olesen in the PGA Championship
7:20PM ( 7 hours ago )
The Latest: Lefty's 79 his worst round at a PGA Championship
The Latest: Phil Mickelson's 79 marks his worst round at a PGA Championship
6:56PM ( 8 hours ago )
The Latest: Mickelson's PGA Championship streak in danger
The Latest: Phil Mickelson's streak of not missing the cut at the PGA Championship since 1995 could be in danger.
6:01PM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Online Golf
Google CEO Pichai cancels 'town hall' on gender dispute
Google CEO Sundar Pichai has canceled a town hall meant to address gender discrimination Thursday after leaks of the company's internal message platform began to appear online
12:06AM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Testimony ends for day in Swift groping case
Testimony has ended for the day in the groping case involving Taylor Swift
11:34PM ( 3 hours ago )
Trump doubles down on 'fire and fury' vow as wargames near
President Donald Trump says maybe he "wasn't tough enough" when he vowed to unleash "fire and fury" on North Korea if it continued to threaten the U.S.
11:32PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP National News
Venezuela's Maduro: 'Mr. Donald Trump, here is my hand'
Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro says he wants a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump - the same man he routinely ridicules as a crass imperial magnate.
10:47PM ( 4 hours ago )
2016 weather report: Extreme and anything but normal
The U.S. weather agency says last year's weather was far more extreme or record-breaking than anything approaching normal
10:37PM ( 4 hours ago )
CNN fires commentator Jeffrey Lord over Nazi salute tweet
CNN fires conservative commentator Jeffrey Lord after he tweeted a Nazi salute at a critic; Lord says he was mocking the critic and respects the network
10:08PM ( 4 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
The Latest: Garcia tripped up by Quail Hollow's 'Green Mile'
The Latest: Sergio Garcia is the first big name tripped up by Quail Hollow Club's "Green Mile."
1:52PM ( 13 hours ago )
The Latest: Koepka plunks course marshal with drive on 16th
The Latest: The "Green Mile" at Quail Hollow is tough on everyone _ even a course marshal who was plunked by Brooks Koepka's drive on No. 16.
11:41AM ( 15 hours ago )
The Latest: Els off to a rough start in his 100th major
The Latest: South Africa's Ernie Els was hoping to make a splash in his 100th major championship, but the "Big Easy" is off to a rocky start at PGA Championship at Quail Hollow playing the first seven holes in 5 over.
10:44AM ( 16 hours ago )
AP Sports - PGA
Kuwait says North Korean workers welcome then refutes itself
U.S. ally Kuwait tells the AP that North Korean workers remain welcome in country amid crisis, then later refutes itself
2:19AM ( 38 minutes ago )
Key events in India-Pakistan relations since Partition
Key events in India-Pakistan relations since Partition
1:54AM ( 1 hour ago )
Trubisky shines for Bears in preseason loss to Broncos
Mitch Trubisky threw for 166 yards and led three scoring drives after Mike Glennon struggled for Chicago, before the Denver Broncos scored two long touchdowns in the closing minutes to beat the Bears 24-17 in the preseason opener
1:09AM ( 1 hour ago )
Nadal upset by Canadian teenager in Montreal
Roger Federer overcame a weak first set to post a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Spaniard David Ferrer in the third round at the men's Rogers Cup
1:03AM ( 1 hour ago )
Wentz off to perfect start, but Eagles fall 24-9 to Packers
Quarterback Carson Wentz's preseason is off to a perfect start, leading the Philadelphia Eagles' to their only touchdown in a 24-9 loss to the Green Bay Packers
1:01AM ( 1 hour ago )