Lee Westwood among the surprising leaderboard names
BY HERB GOULD For Sun-Times Media August 7, 2014 2:48PM
Updated: August 7, 2014 10:58PM
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Veteran Englishman Lee Westwood, who’s known for not winning majors, and Kevin Chappell and Ryan Palmer, who are not known, shot 65s Thursday to share the first-round lead.
Lurking ominously on the tightly bunched leaderboard is Rory McIlroy, who’s one shot back, tied at 66 after barely missing an eagle putt on No. 18. He’s tied with Jim Furyk, Edoardo Molinari, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Kelly and Chris Wood.
‘‘One of the big things for me, especially in major championships, is getting off to good starts,’’ McIlroy said. ‘‘I [was] able to do that today. You see guys shoot 5 and 6-under par, and you know there are scores out there. There’s definitely birdies to be had.’’
McIlroy — who has won his last two events, the British Open and the Bridgestone — birdied five of his last seven holes after starting the back nine with a double bogey and a bogey.
‘‘I was really angry about that,’’ he said. ‘‘Walking to the 12th tee, I was muttering a few things to myself.’’
Westwood, who has played the most majors (67) without a win, had nine birdies offset by a double bogey and a bogey. Chappell, 107th in this week’s world rankings, had six birdies in a bogey-free round. Palmer, a Texan who last won on tour in 2010, had seven birdies and a bogey.
Besides McIlroy, only three other players among the top 35 on the leaderboard have won major championships: Furyk, Geoff Ogilvy and Phil Mickelson.
That’s no way to continue this year’s trend. The first three major winners — Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer and McIlroy — all previously had won a major. On the other hand, three of the previous four PGA winners — Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley and Kaymer — all have been first-time major champions.
Westwood’s 65 ties his best single-round score in a major. He also shot 65 in the third round of the 2011 U.S. Open. Westwood, 41, held a two-stroke lead after three rounds in the 2013 British Open but came up short against another 40-something, the hard-charging Mickelson.
‘‘No!’’ Westwood answered jokingly when asked if he’s become a more patient player. ‘‘I’m just not a patient person. I get frustrated really quickly when I know I can play better. It’s a frustrating game.’’
That said, Westwood has become a more patient player. He might even look back on that 2013 Open and think he could have been more aggressive in spots.
Rough Ryder Cup?
Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson might want to schedule a tryout at the Mayo Clinic.
Two more potential candidates, Dufner (neck) and Matt Kuchar (back), withdrew from the PGA on Thursday due to injuries. They are ranked No. 5 and 8, respectively, on the Ryder Cup automatic qualifiers list, but it’s not clear yet where they’ll finish and whether they’ll be healthy enough to play.
Dustin Johnson already is out due to a leave of absence, and Tiger Woods’ prospects aren’t looking bright due to an injury-plagued season. On top of that, Mickelson, who’s 10th in a system that takes the top nine automatic qualifiers plus three captain’s picks, isn’t having a great year.
Kuchar bowed out shortly before his 8:05 tee time and was replaced by alternate John Huh.
Dufner, the 2012 PGA champion, withdrew after following a front-nine 40 with a triple-bogey 8 on the 10th hole. He had an epidural on July 28.
‘‘I’m just not able to play golf right now,’’ Dufner said. ‘‘I tried to give it a go, but it’s just pointless.’’
Oh, and by the way, Watson, who’s atop the Team USA Ryder Cup points, hasn’t lit up any leaderboards lately, either.