BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. ' With two-time defending champion Tiger Woods at home recuperating from knee surgery, everyone expected a wide-open PGA Championship at Oakland Hills.
The early returns certainly bore that out.
Jim Furyk, Sean OHair, Jeev Milkha Singh, Anthony Kim and Robert Karlsson were among those who had the lead or a share of it Thursday morning, with prominent names such as Sergio Garcia, Anthony Kim, Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson not far behind.
Garcias 69 had him a shot behind the co-leaders, while Mickelson recovered from a shaky start ' teeing off at No. 10 he bogeyed his first two holes ' and was at 1 under through 16 holes.
American Ken Duke joined Garcia in the clubhouse at 1 under.
Karlsson, the 6-foot-5 Swede who is the only player to finish in the top 10 of the years first three majors, stole most of the early thunder by following an opening double-bogey with three straight birdies to eventually get to 4 under that had him in front by two strokes. But two bogeys on the back nine dropped him into a tie with first Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open winner, then OHair and finally Singh.
The greens are way firmer, way firmer. They were a lot more difficult today, Karlsson said of the treacherous putting surfaces at the Donald Ross-designed layout in suburban Detroit. Theres not going to be many scores under par. This is a tough golf course, but its set up perfect.
Singh, the son of an Olympic runner and the first native of India to gain a European Tour card, is playing in just his second PGA Championship. He missed the cut a year ago at Southern Hills.
Singh, no relation to three-time major champion Vijay Singh, was playing on an injured ankle.
I havent been able to practice in the last seven weeks, he said. Even this week, I only played nine holes on Tuesday and nine yesterday.
OHair, playing in only his fourth PGA Championship, was never over par. He birdied two early holes and matched a bogey at No. 7 with a birdie on the 11th hole to get to 2 under through 15 holes.
Kim and Furyk both climbed into a tie for the lead, only to fall back with late bogeys. Furyk bogeyed his final three holes to finish at 1 over. Kim got to 2 under but closed with two bogeys and had a 70.
Five of the top eight players on the leaderboard at one point were from the U.S.
Stricker was 1 over late in his round after birdieing two of his first four holes.
Karlsson tied for eighth at the Masters after a final-round 73, then tied for fourth at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines and tied for seventh at the British Open at Royal Birkdale.
Like many in the 156-player field, Karlsson has a lot riding on this weekend ' even beyond the chance of winning his first major.
He currently stands fifth on the European Ryder Cup points list, but several strong contenders to make the squad are right behind him: Garcia, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell. All are jostling for one of the 10 automatic berths on the European team captained by Nick Faldo.
Ranked No. 22 in the world, Karlsson has never finished higher than a tie for 29th in his previous six PGA Championship starts.
OHair must finish strong to make the U.S. side for the Ryder Cup. He comes into the seasons last major 13th in the rankings, with only the top eight come Sunday night assured of spots on the team. Captain Paul Azinger will pick four more players next month to round out the team for the competition at Valhalla in September.
No. 8 Stricker is followed by Woody Austin, Hunter Mahan, D.J. Trahan and Rocco Mediate, although anyone near the top could cement a spot on the team with a win in the PGA, which is worth double points in the rankings.
Sunny skies and moderate temperatures greeted those first off the tee in the seasons final major championship, with the wind picking up as those with an afternoon tee time began their rounds.