Stricker fires 63 for 2-shot PGA lead

Stricker fires 63 for 2-shot PGA lead

August 12th, 2011 by David Uchiyama in Sports - Professional

JOHNS CREEK, Ga.-With one tap-in putt, Steve Stricker tied major championship golf history.

Stricker equaled a majors record by shooting a 7-under-par 63 as the PGA Championship got under way Thursday at the Atlanta Athletic Club. That has been done only 25 times in the history of major tournaments.

Stricker owns a two-shot lead over Jerry Kelly and a three-stroke lead over Shaun Micheel after the first round.

"I know 63 is that number that no one has gotten under, but I never really thought about it at all today," Stricker said. "I was just trying to make a birdie and finish 8 under, and I never thought about the history part of it."

And with one mighty swing, Rory McIlroy injured his right wrist and nearly ended his PGA Championship just three holes in.

The reigning U.S. Open champion completed his round at even par -- following through with one hand at times and letting the club go completely on other shots -- then headed to a local hospital for an MRI.

His tee shot on No. 3 came to rest in pine straw and close to an underlying root of the tree. He grabbed a 7-iron, swung and let go of the club after impact, which sent it hurtling forward. He immediately grabbed his right wrist.

"It was maybe a foot in front of the ball and I figured that if I could make contact with the ball and let the club go, I could get away with it," McIlroy said. "In hindsight, it might have been better to chip out sideways.

"It was a shot that I felt like if I took it on and pulled it off, it could save me a shot."

McIlroy walked from shot to shot with an ice pack on his wrist. He asked for and received medical attention on the fifth green. After a battery of tests, he stepped down into a greenside bunker and holed out for an eagle.

"It's the last major of the year and I've got six or seven months to the Masters," McIlroy said. "So I might as well try and play through the pain and get it over with."

A trainer wrapped his wrist and forearm on the eighth hole. They added more tape as he waited to hit on No. 10. And despite the pain and unorthodox follow-throughs, he hit enough fairways and greens to shoot par.

"Every time I went through a shot, I was in a lot of pain," McIlroy said. "If it's the same tomorrow and I know that I'm not going to do any more damage to it, I'll play.

"There were a couple points where I thought about not continuing."

Stricker's morning round did not have the same drama. In fact, it did not include a single bogey -- just seven birdies.

He started the day on No. 10 and reeled off three straight birdies. He added two on Nos. 15 and 18, which was the equivalent of getting three strokes on the field since they were the two hardest holes on the course Thursday.

"I came to the course really not expecting too much," Stricker said. "I got off to a good start birdying those first three holes and really kind of set the momentum for me for the day, and I kept that throughout the round."

Kelly, whose parents are members at The Honors Course, also had a hot start. He was 3 under through his first four holes. He bogeyed the monstrous 253-yard 15th and made three more birdies in his 65.

Micheel, who won the 2003 PGA Championship, had a bogey-free round like Stricker. He birdied three of his first five holes and added another on No. 14.

"It was just a great day, and I guess it was unexpected," Micheel said. "I played well. I played smart. I converted and made a couple good up-and-downs."

Tiger Woods, playing in his first major since the Masters, also had a good start, but he finished closer to the bottom than the top of the leaderboard after shooting a 7-over 77.

Phil Mickelson double-bogeyed his first hole of the day, No. 10, and scrambled to shoot 1-over 71.

"I spotted the field two shots on the first hole and I had to fight," Mickelson said. "It's certainly not what I wanted. I'm going to fight hard tomorrow to get into the weekend. It's an OK start."