AFP/ Tulsa, United States
Justin Thomas battled through blustery conditions to seize the early lead in yesterday’s second round of the PGA Championship as 18-hole leader Rory McIlroy prepared to challenge daunting Southern Hills.
Ninth-ranked Thomas, the 2017 PGA champion, sank a nine-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole, his final hole of the day, to shoot a second consecutive three-under par 67 and swipe the outright lead in the clubhouse on six-under 134.
The 29-year-old American grinded through brisk winds yesterday with gusts above 40 mph, opening and closing with birdies and adding two more on par-5 holes against a lone bogey.
Four-time major winner McIlroy fired a 65 on Thursday to seize a one-shot lead over Americans Will Zalatoris and Tom Hoge and all three were set for an afternoon start.
McIlroy, chasing his first major title since the 2014 PGA, fired his best opening round at a major since a 65 at the 2011 US Open at Congressional on the way to his first major title.
Back-nine starter Thomas rolled in a six-foot birdie putt at the 10th and followed at 13 by dropping his approach inside four feet of the cup and sinking the putt.
Thomas found a bunker and made bogey at the par-3 14th then made eight pars before sinking a 23-foot birdie putt at the par-5 fifth, setting the stage for his closing glory. Winds were predicted to decrease as McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth, trying to complete a career Grand Slam, took to the course.
Woods, in his second event of a comeback from severe leg injuries suffered in a February 2021 car crash, struggled to an opening 74 and said his surgically repaired right leg was hurting.
The 15-time major winner placed 47th in his return in April’s Masters, where he said just walking 72 holes was an achievement. But with a projected cut at 4-over, the 46-year-old star was in jeopardy of not reaching the weekend at Southern Hills.
The world’s three top-ranked golfers were grouped in a major for the first time since the 2013 US Open but all were struggling over par after a 10th-tee start.
Top-ranked Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, who has won four of his past eight starts, was on 4-over with one hole to play.
Third-ranked US compatriot Collin Morikawa, the reigning British Open champion, was at 3-over.
Spain’s second-ranked Jon Rahm, the reigning US Open champion from Spain who could return to number one with a victory, was on 2-over.
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