Reigning major champs grind out decent starts at windy PGA

·3-min read
Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, right, and reigning US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau were paired with defending champion Collin Morikawa in Thursday's first round of the PGA Championship

Reigning major champions Hideki Matsuyama, Bryson DeChambeau and Collin Morikawa battled through gusting winds together Thursday at the PGA Championship to stay within reach of the leaders.

Matsuyama, the first Japanese man to win a major title after capturing the Masters last month, closed with a bogey to finish on one-over par 73, saying he could feel the difference in playing a major after winning one.

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

Defending champion Morikawa shot 70, one off the lead, and US Open champion DeChambeau fired a 72 after a back-nine start at the gusty Ocean Course.

"The wind just kicked my butt," said DeChambeau. "Just grinding out there, it takes a lot out of you.

"This is the most difficult golf course that I've played on tour and that is a straight-up fact for me. That requires a lot of energy."

Matsuyama, who spent two weeks in quarantine in Japan last month after going home with the green jacket, had no problems with power.

"My energy level is good," Matsuyama said. "I'm really not tired, but my game isn't where it should be. All my focus is on that right now.

"It's a very difficult golf course and the scores may be even higher later on in the week, so we just have to hang in there and do our best."

Matsuyama had three birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey, but was most irked about his ninth hole.

"Playing the last five holes in 1-over isn't really that bad," he said. "But that three-putt at 18 kind of left a bad taste in my mouth."

DeChambeau birdied 11 and 12 then made four consecutive bogeys and spent the rest of the day fighting back to level par.

"Mentally, you have to show a lot of resolve out there. Mental fortitude to just push on when things aren't going well," DeChambeau said.

"Luck isn't going your way, and you aren't getting the best breaks. 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.'

"That's what I was able to do on the back nine. A couple putts didn't go in that should have... I could have been 4-under today."

He's expecting extreme scores to match the extreme conditions.

"Three-under is leading. That's really nothing out here," he said. "Getting to 4-over is really nothing out here either."

- Bryson gets faster -

Morikawa, who won last year at San Francisco, hopes the brisk winds keep blowing over the coastal layout.

"I hope it does stay windy because it really tests your ability to hit quality shots," he said. "You've just got to be ready to hit good shots out here. It's going to test you."

Morikawa said he could see that DeChambeau, known as a slow player for his desire to check numbers ahead of every shot, was improving in his pace of play despite the winds.

"People need to give him credit that he's actually picking up the pace," Morikawa said. "It was amazing how fast he actually played. I'm not going to say fast, but he wasn't slow. You weren't just waiting on him to figure out whatever.

"Kudos to him because it was windy and he had to figure out some stuff for sure."


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