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updated: 8/7/2014 10:25 PM

Furyk's 66 puts him 1 shot off lead in PGA

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  • Jim Furyk hits out of the bunker on the 11th hole during the first round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club Thursday. Furyk shot a 66 and is tied with three others at 1 shot behind the leaders.

      Jim Furyk hits out of the bunker on the 11th hole during the first round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club Thursday. Furyk shot a 66 and is tied with three others at 1 shot behind the leaders.
    Associated Press

 
 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- If you were expecting the big-name American golfers to jump into immediate contention Thursday at the 96th PGA Championship you would have been disappointed big time.

Tiger Woods, after his dramatic late arrival at Valhalla on Wednesday, shot 74. He admitted "that wasn't very good."

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But at least he had a better day than Matt Kuchar, who withdrew before the round started because of back spasms, or defending champion Jason Dufner, who quit after 10 holes because the pain in his neck made playing on "pointless."

Dufner made a triple-bogey 8 on the last hole he played, was 8-over-par for the tournament and declared in a parking lot meeting with the media that "I'm just not able to play golf right now."

Woods, still on the mend after back surgery, had a rare pairing with Phil Mickelson, but neither could excite the huge, roving gallery. Mickelson, who finished at 2-under-par 69, said Woods "played with a lot of heart" and thanked the PGA of America for the pairing.

All those aches and pains made for a less-than-exciting leaderboard at the end of the day.

On top, all at 6-under-par 65, were former world No. 1 Lee Westwood of England; Kevin Chappell, a 28-year old Californian who has one top-10 finish in 28 starts on the PGA Tour this season; and Ryan Palmer, the only one of the trio saddled with an afternoon tee time when playing conditions are generally more difficult.

Most interesting of the Round 1 results was the 66 posted by Jim Furyk, who joins current world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, Sweden's Henrik Stenson and Spain's Edoardo Molinari at 1 shot off the lead entering Friday's second round.

Furyk has the track record to win this last of the year's major tournaments. The champion of the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields, Furyk was runner-up to Dufner in last year's PGA at Oak Hill in New York.

A schedule change has seemed to ignite Furyk this season. He took a month off after the U.S. Open, where he tied for 12th. He returned to action with a fourth place in the British Open, a runner-up in the Canadian Open and a 15th in the Bridgestone Invitational.

"First time I've ever done that in midseason," Furyk said. "Surprisingly, I came out pretty mechanically sound. Now I'm fresh mentally."

The decision to take a midseason break didn't come easily. It took sports psychologist Bob Rotella to convince Furyk to take a break.

"My dad's been trying to get me to play less golf for five years," Furyk said. "My wife would probably love for me to play less but is always supportive no matter what I do."

Furyk solicited Rotella's help to help him better manage his time.

"I had never worked with a sports psychologist for 19½ years of my career," Furyk SAID. "It really wasn't anything to do with my game. He's an easy person to talk to, and I have a hard time usually opening up to people and to strangers. Definitely his thoughts have helped me be more patient this year."

As for McIlroy, he recovered from a double bogey at the par-5 10th hole and a 3-putt bogey at No. 11 thanks to 4 straight birdies from Nos. 12-15 and another bird at the last. Coming off wins in the British Open and Bridgestone, McIlroy admitted the bad back nine start was a concern.

"It's (tee shot at No. 10) one of the only bad shots I've hit in a few weeks," he said. "What I was really angry about was, you don't compound that error and make a bogey on the next hole. I was hot, and I was trying to use that fire as a fuel to propel myself forward. It just shows where my game is mentally right now, that I was able to do that."

Luke Donald, another afternoon starter and former world No. 1, got within a stroke of the lead after 13 holes, then lost 4 shots to par on the last five holes to post a 70. Wheaton's Kevin Streelman, the other player in the field with Chicago connections, finished birdie-birdie for a 2-under 69.

• For more golf news, visit lenziehmongolf.com. Len can be contacted by email at lenziehm@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter@ZiehmLen, and check out his posts at Facebook.com/lenziehmongolf.

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