Gary Woodland had nearly 100 friends and family members in the crowd, so he felt right at home at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis.
The 34-year-old Woodland, who is from neighboring Kansas, went on a birdie blitz after a slow start and shot 6-under-par 64 to take a one-stroke lead over Rickie Fowler after one round of the 100th PGA Championship.
“This week is as close to home as I’ve been (for a PGA Tour event),” said Woodland, who has won three times on the circuit. “I snuck over here about a month ago and played the golf course. Really enjoyed the layout. The turf is very familiar to me. It’s so hot here during the summer, so the greens are soft and slow. You can be more aggressive, which suits my game.
“It’s nice just to see the results. You work so hard and you want to see results to back up the work that you’ve done and today was just a step in the right direction.”
Woodland, who does not have a top-10 finish since winning the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February, made a bogey on the first hole and followed with six straight pars before reeling off seven birdies on the last 11 holes.
The ninth-ranked Fowler, from Murrieta in Southern California, birdied five of his last 11 holes in a 65, while two-time major champion Zach Johnson stuffed his approach shot to within two feet for a birdie on the last hole to cap a 66 and is tied for third with Brandon Stone of South Africa, who posted three late birdies.
Top-ranked Dustin Johnson collected six birdies in a span of eight holes, but stumbled with two late bogeys and is in a massive tie for fifth with third-ranked Justin Rose of England, 10th-ranked Jason Day of Australia, Ian Poulter of England, Pat Perez of San Diego, Stewart Cink, Brian Gay, Ollie Schniederjans, Kevin Kisner, Thomas Pieters of Belgium and Austin Cook.
Sixth-ranked Francesco Molinari of Italy, who won the Open Championship last month at Carnoustie, carded a 68 and is in a tie for 17th that includes seventh-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, while second-ranked Justin Thomas, the defending champion, and fourth-ranked Brooks Koepka are in a tie for 33rd at 69.
Four-time PGA champion Tiger Woods started bogey-double bogey, but rallied for a 70 and is in a tie for 48th that includes fifth-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, while eight-ranked Jordan Spieth is tied for 62nd at 71, and 2005 PGA champion Phil Mickelson shot 73 and is tied for 100th.
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