SPRINGFIELD, N.J. - There were three surprise contenders Thursday in the first round of the PGA Championship, all veterans and all with similar pedigrees in big tournaments.
Davis Love III of St. Simons Island, Ga., Steve Elkington and Hal Sutton - past PGA winners and three of the five players to have won multiple Players Championships - used their experience and coolness under fire to work their way onto the first page of the leaderboard.
Love, the 1997 PGA champion and winner of The Players in 1992 and 2004; and Elkington, who won the 1995 PGA and the 1991 and 1997 Players, both shot 2-under-par 68 to finish one shot off the lead.
Sutton, who won the PGA and The Players in 1983 (and added a Players title in 2000) mixed two birdies and two bogeys through his first seven holes, then parred 10 in a row and finished with a birdie at No. 18 to finish with 69.
Love and Elkington said they are playing pain-free.
"I can at least stand up there and know I can try to hit the shots I need to hit," Love said. "My putting is getting better every round (he began using a model this week with a shorter shaft) and I'm hitting more fairways."
"I've always played well when I didn't have anything wrong with me," Elkington said. "What a shock. I got over the shoulder and have (the allergies) under control. I have no physical problems at all."
MYSTERY BALL: The frustration of Tiger Woods' day was symbolized by his bogey at the par-5 18th hole, which gave him a front nine of 5-over-par 39 (he began his round on the back).
He went on to shoot 5-over-par 75, his highest opening round in relation to par in a major.
Woods' tee shot at the hole ricocheted off a tree and went towards a hazard. After a frantic search, the ball was found within the hazard line, but not in the water, on the left side of the fairway, However, the ball was embedded in the ground. Woods was not allowed to lift the ball according to the rules, and had to take a penalty drop before hitting his next shot.
Woods found it hard to believe that the ball became embedded just by caroming off the tree. He theorized that someone helping him look for the ball may have stepped on it.
"The ground was pretty hard down there," he said. "We couldn't get confirmation that someone had stepped on it, so I had to play it as it was in the hazard."
O'HAIR NOT SATISIFIED: Sean O'Hair's 71, on its face, showed that the PGA Tour rookie is becoming a quick study in managing his game in major championships.
After all, he has now shot 73 or better in five rounds in the majors.
His debut in golf's signature events came at the British Open in July, when he tied for 15th at St. Andrews. In addition, he birdied his last two holes, the par-5 17th and 18th.
However, the Lubbock, Texas, native said it was a round that could have gone much lower.
"I'm not real happy with my tee ball today," he said. "I had too many wedges and 8- and 9-irons in my hand to not have made more birdies. It was a pretty sloppy day."
However, O'Hair is only four shots out of the lead.
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