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Olesen and Kisner Set PGA Pace

Thorbjorn Olesen shares the opening round lead at the PGA Championship in North Carolina. (Photo: Bruce Young)
American Kevin Kisner and Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen share the opening round lead at the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte in North Carolina, the pair recording rounds of 4-under-par 67, although five hours apart, to lead by one over a group of five players at 3-under.

24 players broke par on a day that presented ideal scoring conditions but the revamped golf course provided more than its share of challenges and no one player has gained a break of any real significance at the completion of round one.  

Olesen, who played in the morning field, threw out signals last week that his game was building to something special when he stormed home over the final 36 holes at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational to finish 10th against an elite field.  

Only last week's winner, Hideki Matsuyama, bettered Olesen's final 36-hole score in Akron last weekend and today the Dane picked up where he left off with an impressive start to his 14th major championship start.

Olesen is a four-time European Tour winner and last November he and countryman Soren Kjeldsen won the World Cup of Golf at Kingston Heath in Melbourne. But in his previous 13 major championship appearances, there have been just two top-10s so his fast start takes him to a new level again.

“I feel like the last two months, I've been playing very well without getting any really results,” said Olesen.

"I had a good week in France, but besides that, I haven't really had the results. But felt like I was playing very well and felt like, at The Open, I came into that week with a lot of confidence because of my game was in such good shape. But didn't really get it going at any point.

“Last week, I was struggling a bit the first two days with my driving. But then I sorted that out over the weekend and then I started making a lot of birdies there. That's the key right now to my rounds - just getting that driver going, and then I feel like I'm in a good position with the rest of my game.”

When asked what a good finish would mean this week, even if it was not a win, Olesen responded;

“Yeah, it would mean a lot. I've had a couple of top-10s in majors. I've had some good rounds in majors, and I feel like I've learned a lot over the years playing quite a few majors now. I feel like I'm better prepared to be in contention over the weekend and have a chance to win.

“I feel more confident with myself and my game than I probably did a few years ago. So obviously a lot of things can happen. I just have to stay relaxed the next few days, still trying to keep the ball in the fairway, and then I know I can hit it close and make some birdies.”

Kisner has developed into one of the better performed players on the PGA Tour, winning twice and finishing runner-up on two occasions.

This is his 12th major championship but with no top-10s to date, he too enters a new area in terms of expectation, both internally and externally.

Kisner is expected to enjoy good morning conditions on day two to advance his cause and the manner in which he finished his opening round will have given him a great boost entering Friday.

His tee shot at the 18th found the rough, and from over 200 yards, he finished 25 feet from the hole and converted to join Olesen in the lead.

“I drove it nice and I have to keep the ball out of the rough for me to play well around here as it is so long,” said Kisner. “I feel like there are five or six holes I can attack, other than that I am praying for par.

“As long as this course stays firm as it was today and we don’t get too much rain to soften it up, then I like my chances.”

The group at 3-under and just one back includes reigning US Open Champion, Brooks Koepka, who is playing just his third event since the win at Erin Hills. He expressed frustration and concern with the speed of the greens and is concerned just how fast they might become.

New greens, as these are at Quail Hollow, take time to settle in, can often be firmer than will be the case in the years ahead and Koepka was unsettled by the surfaces.

“The greens, if they get about a foot faster, they are kind of unplayable with the pin placements I think,” he said. “I mean, these slopes are just getting, you know, bigger and bigger with the speed of the greens and the grain. If you miss it just by a couple feet from the flag, you can hit a great shot in there and then wind up 30 yards away.

“I feel like I played pretty solid. The first hole, got off to a terrible... I missed a 4-footer, and that was kind of my day, it kind of felt like. Wasn't exactly comfortable on the greens. I don't know what that was.

“I think it had a lot to do with the speed of the greens, how fast they were. With some of the pin locations, these greens are the fastest greens I've ever played. And the thing is, they are only going to get faster and firmer. So it will be really interesting to see how the rest of the week plays.”

Pre-tournament favourite and the man chasing a career Grand Slam this week, Jordan Spieth, was slow out of the gates with a round of 1-over par 72.

Spieth was frustrated he did not get out of his round what he felt he should and said as much after his round.  

“I don't think I was as free rolling as I thought I would be, as you can tell by some frustration. If I would have shot 1-over and didn't strike it well and everything was average, it would have been fine. But when I had the chances that I had and I just couldn't get the ball to go in on the greens, that is when I get the most frustrated I can get out there.”

Jason Day leads the Australians in 15th position after his round of 70.

For a full report on the Australians, click here.





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