Stricker Leads PGA Championship After 63; McIlroy Starts Round

Steve Stricker matched the lowest score in major tournament history at the U.S. PGA Championship, where Tiger Woods stumbled to his worst opening round in one of golf’s four Grand Slam events.

Pre-tournament favorite Rory McIlroy started his second round after straining a tendon in his right wrist three holes into yesterday’s play. McIlroy said he had considered withdrawing because of the injury.

Stricker, at No. 5 the world’s top-ranked American golfer, shot a 7-under-par 63 yesterday at Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Georgia, and has a two-shot lead over fellow Wisconsin native Jerry Kelly at the year’s final major. Stricker is the 23rd player to shoot 63 at a major and the 11th to accomplish the feat at the PGA Championship.

“It’s a good start,” said the 44-year-old Stricker, an 11-time PGA Tour winner whose best showing in a major was a runner-up finish at the 1998 PGA Championship. “I’m trying to put this behind me and come out and start a new day.”

Woods, 35, a four-time PGA Championship winner, had five bogeys, four birdies and three double-bogeys in his worst first- round score in 62 majors as a professional or amateur. His previous high for the opening round of a major was a 76, most recently at the 2006 U.S. Open.

“Once you get to a major championship, you just let it fly, let it go,” said Woods, who has continued to incorporate swing changes since returning from a four-month injury layoff last week. “And I did and it cost me.”

Halfway Cut

Tied for 129th in the field of 156, Woods is in danger of missing the cut for weekend play at the PGA Championship for the first time in 14 appearances. He’s scheduled to tee off at 1:45 p.m. today, a half hour before Stricker. Woods has missed two cuts in majors as a professional -- at the 2006 U.S. Open and 2009 British Open. The top 70, plus ties, will advance to this weekend’s play.

The top four players on the leaderboard after the first round were Americans, as the U.S. seeks to end a run of six majors without a winner, the longest in history.

Shaun Micheel, the 2003 PGA Championship winner, is in third place after a 4 under, one ahead of Scott Verplank. Micheel, at 42, is the youngest of the group. Kelly, like Stricker, is 44 and Verplank is 47.

Five players in their 40s have won the PGA Championship, the last being Vijay Singh in 2004, when he was 41.

Anders Hansen of Denmark had an early birdie in the second round today to get to 3-under par.

Americans Davis Love III, 47, and Brandt Jobe, 46, are in a group of eight golfers at 2 under. Italy’s 18-year-old Matteo Manassero, Australia’s John Senden, Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge, England’s Simon Dyson and American Bill Haas also shot 68 yesterday.

McIlroy Injury

McIlroy, the U.S. Open champion from Northern Ireland, shot an even-par 70 while playing most of the first round with his wrist taped. He was hurt when he jammed his club into a tree root in front of his ball.

McIlroy said he had swelling and a sharp pain in his arm that extended to his elbow and shoulder. He started his second round at 8:35 a.m. this morning after testing the injury on the practice range.

“It’s the last major of the year,” McIlroy said yesterday. “I’ve got six or seven months until the Masters, so I might as well try to play through the pain.”

Phil Mickelson, ranked sixth in the world, shot a 1-over 71 and is tied for 36th place. Top-ranked Luke Donald is even par, while fellow Englishman Lee Westwood is 1 over.

First-Time Winners

Stricker, who has two victories this year, is seeking to become the seventh consecutive first-time major winner, a streak that started with Graeme McDowell at the 2010 U.S. Open.

Stricker had no bogeys and made two of his seven birdies at the most difficult holes on the course, the 260-yard, par-3 15th and the 507-yard, par-4 18th. The 15th played to a 3.43 stroke average yesterday and the 18th was at 4.71.

“That’s like stealing probably three, four shots from the field there,” Stricker said.

Woods started on the 10th hole and moved atop the leaderboard with birdies on three of his first five holes. He then shot 10 over par for the rest of the round, the slide starting with a double-bogey at the 15th.

Woods’s worst previous score at the PGA Championship was a 75, most recently during the fourth round in 2009, when he blew a lead and was beaten by Y.E. Yang. His worst round as a professional was a 10-over 81 during the third round of the 2002 British Open.

Woods hasn’t won a tournament since November 2009 and the most recent of his 14 major titles was at the 2008 U.S. Open. The highest first-round score by a PGA Championship winner was 75 by John Mahaffey in 1978.

To contact the reporters on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net; Mike Buteau in Atlanta at mbuteau@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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