Monday 15 October 2018

Woodland sets scorching pace to seize Bellerive lead

The 34-year-old from Kansas bogeyed the first hole but eventually caught fire and played his last 11 in seven under par to lead by a stroke in the clubhouse from Rickie Fowler (pictured) with South Africa Brandon Stone two shots off the pace after a 66. Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The 34-year-old from Kansas bogeyed the first hole but eventually caught fire and played his last 11 in seven under par to lead by a stroke in the clubhouse from Rickie Fowler (pictured) with South Africa Brandon Stone two shots off the pace after a 66. Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Keogh

American Gary Woodland scorched home in just 30 blows to fire a six-under 64 and lead the US PGA at Bellerive Country Club.

The 34-year-old from Kansas bogeyed the first hole but eventually caught fire and played his last 11 in seven under par to lead by a stroke in the clubhouse from Rickie Fowler with South Africa Brandon Stone two shots off the pace after a 66.

Woodland, who has never finished better than tied 12th in six previous appearances in the season's final major, birdied the eighth and ninth to turn in 34, then made five birdies in a homeward 30 to get his nose in front.

Fowler (29) set the target early in the day, missing just three fairways and only two greens as he used the blade just 29 times and made six birdies in a five-under-par 65.

Considered one of the best players in the world yet to win a major, he wasn't fretting about his near misses - nine top-10s which include a third career runner-up finish in a major at the Masters in April - but happy to simply hit fairways and greens.

"I always have hope," Fowler said. "I know Phil didn't win until his 30s. I don't know the exact numbers, but it's not something I necessarily worry about.

"Keep putting ourselves in position, get in contention, we have had plenty of runner-ups, Jack had a lot of runner-ups, we'll just keep beating down that door."

World number one Dustin Johnson looked set to challenge for the lead when chipped in at the sixth for the first of six birdies in eight holes and joined Fowler on five under par.

But he bogeyed the 14th and 17th for a 67 that left him in large group on three under that included Ian Poulter and 2015 champion Jason Day.

Fowler's game plan on a course that reminds him of his alma mater's home course, Oklahoma State, is to keep it simple.

"If you hit fairways and greens it's not hard," he said. "But if you start driving it in the rough and missing greens, start scrambling, I feel like that's where kind of the bogeys come."

Scoring was bunched and surprisingly high despite the soft conditions with Day, Poulter and Johnson joined on three under by Austin Cook, Pat Perez, Brian Gay, Stewart Cink and Ollie Schniederjans.

Open champion Francesco Molinari came back from three over after six holes to card a two-under 68 with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy six off the lead after 70s.

Irish Independent

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