Aus club pro Hocknull relishes major debut

Evin Priest

Australian club pro Craig Hocknull says he'll never forget the feeling of being two shots off the lead at a major championship and hearing a crowd erupt for Tiger Woods.

"That roar was something else," Hocknull said on Thursday.

The 14-time major winner Woods was teeing off in the first round at the US PGA Championship when Hocknull, making his major debut, was coming up the seventh at Bellerive Country Club, in Missouri.

Stepping up to the occasion, Arizona-based Hocknull birdied the hole to climb to one-under-par and, for a fleeting moment, was two shots off the lead.

"When I was on the seventh we heard the roars coming from Tiger teeing off on 10 and I told my son 'this is where you wanna be'," Hocknull said.

"It was an absolutely incredible feeling."

The brush with golf royalty came just 30 minutes after 43-year-old Hocknull almost holed a 5-iron for eagle from 200 yards, his approach to the par-4 fifth hole settling eight feet from the flag.

Hocknull struggled on the back nine at Bellerive and settled for a 72 to finish at two over and seven shots back of clubhouse leader Rickie Fowler (65).

Four-time PGA Championship winner Woods (70) only beat Hocknull by two shots.

But Papua New Guinea-born, Northern Territory-raised Hocknull said he would never forget his first 18 holes on golf's biggest stage.

"On the first tee, I was upset I wasn't the first to hit off because my hands were shaking pretty good," Hocknull said.

"I've played one event on the PGA Tour (the 2017 Phoenix Open) but this is a totally different ball-game," he said.

Hocknull says if he wasn't one of 20 club pros to qualify for the year's final major via the PGA Professionals Championship, he'd be conducting golf lessons in his summer residence of Utah.

"Normal day, I'd be standing on the back of the range at Glenwild Golf Club teaching one of my students," he said.

Hocknull invented his own putter, the Saber Cat, and declined offers to endorse other brands to put Saber on the font of his hat and shirt.

"I just need to get myself on the (TV) coverage," Hocknull joked.