TULSA, Okla. — There was no Southern charm to Southern Hills for the world’s No. 1 player.
Scottie Scheffler was scrambling all day in the first round of the PGA Championship, finding bunkers or water, and landing behind trees. One par putt lipped out, then he had to take a penalty stroke after driving into a hazard off the 18th tee.
By the time it was over, the Masters winner and this season’s most dominant player finished with a 1-over 71. It was his first round over par in two months and left him six shots adrift of leader Rory McIlroy.
And he wasn’t the only one struggling. World No. 2 Jon Rahm had an even more miserable day at 3 over par on a course that put the best in the game to the test.
Still, Scheffler was fairly upbeat after the round. He knows it could have been much worse. A par-saving put from 16 feet on the final hole after a wet tee shot took some of the pressure off.
“It’s going to make my dinner taste a little bit better,” Scheffler said.
That’s if he can get the salty taste of the afternoon sweat out of his mouth.
McIlroy posted his leading score after a morning start that avoided some of the worst heat and wind of the day on refurbished Southern Hills course that has hosted eight major tournaments. By the time Scheffler started, the course was baking in a heat index that pushed 90 degrees and felt every bit of it in the hot blasts of wind.
But Scheffler didn’t complain about the conditions or the course. Tough conditions are to be expected, and he’ll get his chance to rebound with an early start Friday.
“It was very fair. Definitely no gripes with the setup. The course is very challenging,” he said.
Scheffler seemed ready to kickstart his round with an eagle on the par-5 fifth, and it was time to attack the leaderboard. But he gave the shot back on No. 9.
A birdie on the 10th set the table for a run through the same stretch of holes where McIlroy had made his charge in the morning with four in a row. But Scheffler couldn’t match it and instead found himself in a gauntlet of four bogeys over the final seven holes of his round.
But again, the 25-year-old spun a positive.
“I’m still pretty frustrated with how I played the back nine, but overall 1 over par playing as poorly as I did today, I didn’t shoot myself out of the tournament,” Scheffler said.
Rahm likely isn’t so optimistic about the weekend. His miserable day started with a bogey on the first hole. Others struggled, too.
World No. 3 Collin Morikawa shot a 72. And Jordan Spieth, who is chasing the career Grand Slam, played with McIlroy and had to watch the Northern Irishman charge to the top while he faded to a 2-over 72 with three bogeys in the final four holes.
Scheffler will take aim at what he can do Friday to recover. Get to the weekend and see what happens.
“I guess I’m six back now, so six shots over three days really isn’t that big of a deal,” Scheffler said. “I’m definitely a lot further back than I had hoped to be. This is one of those golf courses where you could have a really great round.”