Harold Varner III

PGA Championship notebook: DeChambeau proud of first-round comeback


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Bryson DeChambeau walks off the 13th green Thursday during the first round of the PGA Championship in Kiawah Island, S.C. DeChambeau shot an even-par 72. Matt York/Associated Press

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau may never have been prouder of an even-par round.

DeChambeau overcame four straight bogeys on his opening nine to finish at 72, five shots off the lead after the opening round of the PGA Championship on Thursday.

“For the most part, I stuck my head up high and kept it high and was able to finish strong,” he said.

DeChambeau started strong, too, with a pair of birdies on his first three holes, then got sideways in the middle of the Ocean Course’s treacherous back nine.

He three-putted for bogey on the 13th and found waste bunkers on the 14th and 16th holes during his troubling stretch. But like any diligent experimenter, DeChambeau worked the problem and found success.

He made three birdies coming in, including on the seventh and eighth holes, to regain his footing.

“You have to be able to step up and say, ‘You know what, it doesn’t matter. I’m just going to execute the best shot I could right here,’” he said. “That’s what I was able to do on the back nine.”

DeChambeau had an admirer in his own group in defending PGA champion Collin Morikawa.

Morikawa said DeChambeau has personality and imagination in his game, qualities that are enjoyable to see up close. And the group moved at a good pace despite DeChambeau’s contemplative reputation.

“You weren’t just waiting on him to figure out whatever,” said Morikawa, who shot 70.

DIFFERENT FEELING

Hideki Matsuyama brought the attitude of a major champion into his first major since winning the Masters last month.

Playing with DeChambeau and Morikawa, Matuyama finished with a 1-over 73, six shots off the lead. His round included a double-bogey 6 on No. 3, his 12th hole. But he didn’t have another miscue after that.

Matsuyama said he felt confidence from having proved himself at Augusta National.

“Before becoming a major champion, you’re always grinding, pushing, and have never done it before,” he said. “But since I’ve done it, like today, it was a little bit easier to play tournament golf.”

FINDING OLD FORM

Jason Dufner, the 2013 PGA champion, started with a solid 1-under 71.

Dufner missed the cut the past three times he’s played the PGA as he’s struggled to find the form that helped him win his lone major eight years ago.

Dufner said he consulted with his former coach, Chuck Cook, before the RBC Heritage last month to try to get back to what he does best.

“I’ve never been a long hitter, and I’ve never been the best of putters, so you put those two together and you shoot a lot of scores around even par, which doesn’t really work much around here,” Dufner said.

Cook helped him reconnect with some past techniques, not that Dufner believes he’ll be able to belt it out with the ultra-long players on tour.

“I’m 44 years old. I’m just trying to enjoy these last however many years I’m playing golf out here on the tour and do the best that I can,” he said.

Maybe then start a second career as a swing coach?

Don’t bet on it.

“First off, there’s no money in it, and second off, dealing with tour players is a nightmare. You don’t want to be part of it. That’s just fact. Ask any of the teachers,” Dufner said.

WITHDRAWALS

Francesco Molinari and Sam Burns were forced to withdraw Thursday.

Molinari, the 2018 British Open champion, cited a back injury in pulling out of the championship. Molinari has fallen to 144th in the world.

He was replaced in the field by first alternate Brandon Hagy, who has been practicing on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island this week.

The 24-year-old Burns came in as one of the hottest players in golf. He won the Valspar Championship three weeks ago, then finished second at the AT&T Byron Nelson last week.

He played his first nine in 5-over par, including a triple bogey and a double bogey, before he pulled out of the tournament.

TROUBLE EVERYWHERE

The 214-yard 17th hole on the Ocean Course requires a carry over a huge pond to a narrow green. Max Homa found the water – but not from the tee.

Homa yelled “Fore!” as soon as he saw his ball sailing toward spectators perched atop a dune left of the green. He winced as it flew over their heads and settled in a sandy waste area.

Homa caught too much ball on his second shot, flying it over the green and into the water. After a penalty drop, his next shot came up short. He ultimately missed a 3-foot putt and walked off with a quadruple-bogey 7.

After playing his first 11 holes in 1 under, Homa signed for a 6-over 78.

HOME START

Club pro Patrick Rada grew up in Anderson, South Carolina, played for the Gamecocks and had plenty of family ties to rival Clemson.

So the Palmetto State player was honored to start the PGA Championship in his home state.

Rada struck a perfect drive of 263 yards on the par-4 first hole after collecting himself before beginning his first major championship.

“It was amazing,” Rada said. “As soon as I qualified, I had heard a rumor that they might want me to lead off the tournament, being from South Carolina.”

The head professional at McArthur Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Florida, has plenty of ties to the state.

His parents and brother went to Clemson – only a short distance from where he grew up – while he played college golf for the rival Gamecocks.

About 15 relatives and friends were there to watch Rada’s 7 a.m. opening tee shot.

“It was really just special to be able to share that together with them,” he said.

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