Eric Cole simply slipped past the big names to the top of the leaderboard.
The 34-year-old Cole, who was born in Palm Springs and has never won as a professional, was five-under-par while playing the 15th hole when darkness halted play and held a one-stroke lead over Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis in the first round of the 105th PGA Championship on the East Course at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.
Frost delayed the start of the tournament for about two hours on Thursday morning, wo 30 players will return on Friday morning to finish the opening round before the second round begins.
One of those players returning is Cole, who collected three birdies on each nine against a single bogey at No. 13, and picked up his golf ball and walked to the clubhouse rather than finish the 15th hole after the horn blew.
“It’s nice, I like it a lot,” said Cole, who is leading in only his second major appearance after missing the cut in the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in La Jolla. “Whenever you play, you want to compete to win. That’s the spot I like to see my name at, and hopefully it is there more often. It was a good day, five-under through the holes that I played was good. I played solid for the most part and got a couple of good breaks when I needed them.
“I’m hitting my irons pretty well, I feel like. The few opportunities that you have—because you don’t have a ton, obviously, you have to take advantage of them. It’s a hard course. When I did have an opportunity, I kind of felt like I happened to read it right and hit a good putt, and they went in today, so that was good.
“I mean, I just have got to keep focusing on what I’ve been doing. If the results happen, then they do.”
Cole, whose parents Laura Baugh and Bobby Cole were both winners as golf pros, is not unaccustomed to winning, having claimed more than 50 victories on the developmental Minor League Golf Tour in South Florida. He lost in a playoff to Chris Kirk in the Honda Classic and tied for fifth in the Mexico Open this season.
DeChambeau, the 2020 U.S. Open champion at Winged Foot who now plays LIV Golf but has been struggling the last couple years, made two bogeys on his front nine but then had six birdies the rest of the way in a 66.
“It’s been a while, so nice to come back and start to finally figure out what’s going on with my golf swing,” said DeChambeau, who has eight PGA Tour victories and 10 as a pro. “As I’ve told you guys before, I’ve struggled with my driving. You see me out there on the range. That’s something I don’t want to do. I don’t want to be out there all night, but I’ve had to figure out what I did so well in 2018 and what made me so successful then.
“I feel like I’m catching on and trending in that direction. I figured out a couple things this week, and it certainly paid off today. If you’re driving it well and hitting your irons well, you can play out here, but it can get pretty nasty pretty quick if you’re not hitting it straight. As I was looking at it throughout the week, I’m like, man, I don’t know how shooting under par is even possible out here on some of the golf holes. But, luckily, I was able to play some really good golf, hit a lot of fairways, did my job and made some putts.
“I mean, 66 is a fantastic round of golf at Oak Hill. It’s a prestigious place, a very difficult golf course.”
Second-seeded Scottie Scheffler made three birdies in a bogey-free 67 and is tied for third with two-time major champion Dustin Johnson, who made fourth birdies in a span of seven holes in his bogey-free 67, and Corey Conners of Canada, who had six birdies and three bogeys in his 67.
Adam Scott of Australia was near the lead all day until making a double-bogey 6 on the last hole for a 68 and is tied for sixth with Viktor Hovland or Norway, who made three straight birdies on his front nine; Keegan Bradley, the 2011 PGA champion, who birdied three of his first four holes, and Ryan Fox, who made three of his four birdies on the front nine.
Justin Suh of San Jose and USC made only one bogey in a 69 and is in a big tie for 10th with Hayden Buckley, who birdied his last hole; Sepp Straka of Austria, who made three early birdies; Thomas Pieters of Belgium, who have five birdies but made bogeys on the last two holes; Keith Mitchell, who made a single bogey, and Pablo Larrazabal of Spain, who birdied his last hole.
Also in the tie for 10th are Victory Perez, who was one-under-par after 15 holes; Adam Hadwin of Canada, who also was one-under through 15; Justin Rose of England, who was one-under through 14, and Patrick Rodgers of Stanford, who was one-under through 13.
Third-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland shot 71 and was in a tie for 27th that included sixth-ranked Max Homa of Valencia and Cal, while eighth-ranked Cameron Smith of Australia is tied for 42nd at 72 and 10th-ranked Jordan Spieth is tied for 63rd at 73.
Fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA was four-over through 16 and tied for 76th, while top-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain and seventh-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England struggled to 76s and are tied for 117th.
Defending champion Justin Thomas is tied for 42nd at 72.
For complete results, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard