Watson, Molinari set pace

2010-08-13 06:28

Wisconsin - Italian Francesco Molinari fired a four-under 68 to seize a share of the lead with American Bubba Watson in the first round of the weather-hit PGA Championship on Thursday.

Molinari hit 16 of 18 fairways on the Whistling Straits course and rolled in five birdies to go with a bogey in his second appearance in the final major championship of the season.

South African Ernie Els and Matt Kuchar of the USA were also at four-under when play was halted for the day because of darkness following a three hour, 10 minute delay at the start of the round due to dense fog.

Kuchar, who missed the cut in his first two PGA Championships, eagled the par-four 13th hole. He started on No. 10 and still had four holes to play when the first round resumes early Friday morning.

Els got a ride back to clubhouse as the evening light faded over the course and he found himself stranded on the par-four 15th hole when the siren sounded.

The 78 players who were left on the course will complete their rounds Friday followed immediately by the second round of the 7.5 million dollar event.

It was a good day all around for the Molinari family as his older brother Edoardo also had a strong round, shooting a one-under 71.

"It was a pretty solid round," said the 27-year-old Francesco. "I hit the ball quite well all day and basically just tried to stay out of trouble."

Edoardo, 29, collected his first European Tour victory earlier this year.

If Molinari hangs on for the victory he would become the first player in seven years (Shaun Micheel 2003) to make the PGA Championship his first victory on the USPGA Tour.

"You have to start somewhere," he said.

The 31-year-old Watson made his presence known with a round that included six birdies, 10 pars and two bogeys in the first round.

Watson spent the down time playing video games on his cell phone and joking around with fellow American Rickie Fowler who was trying to catch up on his sleep.

"I was throwing stuff at Rickie Fowler," Watson said. "Pretty much basic kid stuff that you do."

Australian Jason Day, who is competing in his first PGA Championship, is part of a group at three-under 69.

Day was in the opening group that teed off with some of the thick fog from Lake Michigan still blanketting the course.

He finished with five birdies and made the turn at 34 on the Whistling Straits.

"I will take a 69 every day," said Day.

Day qualified for the PGA Championship by winning the Byron Nelson Championship in May. He finished tied for 60th at the British Open at St. Andrews.

Tiger Woods rolled in a birdie on his final hole to get to one-under 71.

The 14-time major championship winner is three shots back of the leaders in a group that also includes Molinari's brother, Steve Elkington, Brian Davis and Camilo Villegas.

Woods, who is trying to rebuild his image and his game following a recent sex scandal, came out quickly Thursday getting to three-under at one point and briefly grabbing a share of the lead.

Woods said improved putting made the difference and helped him open and close his round with birdies.

"I felt so much more comfortable over (putts)," he said. "I got my lines back. I could release the blade and the toe (putter) is moving again which is great and something I like to feel. It felt good."

Woods, who is fresh off his worst career performance at the Bridgestone Invitational, needed just four putts on the first four holes after starting his round off the 10th tee.

Woods was in one of the early trios to tee off and is playing with defending champion Yang Yong-eun (72) and 2004 PGA Championship winner Vijay Singh (73).

Even before the fog rolled in Thursday morning, the par-72, 7,507 yard course had been hit by bad weather.

Thunderstorms dumped more than four centimetres of rain on, forming puddles in many of the close to 1,000 bunkers and softening the fairways and greens.

Weather forecasters are predicting more fog on Friday.

Partial first round scores on Thursday at the 92nd PGA Championship at the par-72, 7 507-yard Whistling Straits golf course (play was halted because of darkness with 78 players still on the course):

68 - Bubba Watson (USA), Francesco Molinari (ITA)

69 - Jason Day (AUS), Ryan Moore (USA), Charles Howell (USA)

70 - John Merrick (USA), Kim Kyung-tae (KOR), Martin Laird (GBR), Jim Furyk (USA), Michael Sim (AUS), Thongchai Jaidee (THA), Gregory Bourdy (FRA)

71 - Stephen Gallacher (GBR), Stuart Appleby (AUS), Steve Elkington (AUS), Ryan Palmer (USA), Brian Davis (ENG), Tiger Woods (USA), Marc Leishman (AUS), Rhys Davies (GBR), Camilo Villegas (COL)

72 - Luke Donald (GBR), JB Holmes (USA), Paul Casey (GBR), Matt Bettencourt (USA), Martin Kaymer (GER), D.J. Trahan (USA), Edoardo Molinari (ITA), Y.E. Yang (KOR), Brian Gay (USA), Ian Poulter (GBR), David Horsey (GBR), Troy Matteson (USA)

73 - Bo Van Pelt (USA), Vaughn Taylor (USA), Rickie Fowler (USA), Justin Leonard (USA), Rob Labritz (USA), Soren Kjeldsen (DEN), Charl Schwartzel (RSA), Davis Love (USA), Vijay Singh (FIJ), Ben Crane (USA), Sonny Skinner (USA)

74 - KJ Choi (KOR), Steve Marino (USA), Geoff Ogilvy (AUS), Hiroyuki Fujita (JPN), Alvaro Quiros (ESP), Tetsuji Hiratsuka (JPN), David Toms (USA), Anthony Kim (USA), Matt Jones (AUS), Brendon de Jonge (ZIM), Daniel Willett (GBR)

75 - Scott Hebert (USA), Tim Petrovic (USA), Rich Steinmetz (USA), Jerry Kelly (USA), Padraig Harrington (GBR), Ricky Barnes (USA), George McNeill (USA)

76 - Kyle Flinton (USA), Ryo Ishikawa (JPN), John Daly (USA), Fredrik Jacobson (SWE), Retief Goosen (RSA)

77 - Derek Lamely (USA), Stewart Cink (USA)

78 - Keith Ohr (USA), Sergio Garcia (ESP), Raphael Jacquelin (FRA), Rob Moss (USA)

79 - Corey Pavin (USA), Ryan Benzel (USA)

80 - Mark Brooks (USA)

82 - Mark Sheftic (USA), Jason Schmuhl (USA)