LOUISVILLE, Ky. – While Xander Schauffele was setting a PGA Championship record in Thursday’s first round at Valhalla, defending champion Brooks Koepka made the prudent move to stay patient, not panic and avoid any changes in his game plan.


Bryson DeChambeau took the same approach. So did Cameron Smith. So did Martin Kaymer. As a result, all four LIV Golf captains produced solid scores that left them lurking inside the top 10 of the leaderboard.


That’s the good news. The bad news is that Schauffele’s 9-under 62 – the lowest score in PGA Championship history and just the fourth 62 in major championship history – leaves everybody else needing to make up ground in the next three days.


Koepka shot the lowest score of the 16 LIV Golf players in the field with a 4-under 67, five strokes off Schauffele’s and tied for sixth. A year ago, he opened with a 72 at Oak Hill and was six shots off the lead held by DeChambeau before rallying with rounds of 66-66-67 to win his third PGA Championship.


“Just stay patient. That’s what majors are all about, I think,” the Smash GC captain said. “You can’t win it today, but you just try to hang around and give yourself a chance or in a good spot come Sunday.”


Koepka was definitely patient, waiting until late in his round to make a big move up the leaderboard. He was 1 under going into the par-5 seventh before hitting his second shot from 211 yards inside 3 feet for an eagle. He followed with a 37-foot birdie putt at the par-3 eighth.


“Ricky (Elliott, his caddie) kept me telling all day just stay patient, wait your turn, and I think that’s one of the things I’m exceptionally well at,” Koepka said. “Sometimes you’re in a round of golf, you’ve just got to wait your turn and catch that run like I did with an eagle-birdie.”


DeChambeau finished his 3-under 68 in similar fashion. He holed out from 51 yards for eagle at the seventh after he decided to lay up on his second shot with an iron when the wind switched on him. He followed by rolling in an 18-footer for birdie at the eighth.


“You just need a spark out there,” said the Crushers GC captain. “I was looking for that bit of a spark, and I feel like I’m in a better place.”


Indeed, he was pleased with the score considering that he wasn’t at his best.


“My ball-striking was shaky today, and that’s ultimately why I felt like I only shot 3-under today,” he said before heading for a post-round range session. “Still hit in the fairway numerous times with the driver, which was nice, but the irons were just not on point. And if that’s as bad as it’s going to be, hopefully that’s a good sign.”


DeChambeau knows from recent experience that no first-round lead is safe. Not only did he have the lead last year at Oak Hill, he opened the Masters last month with a 65 that left him one shot ahead of eventual winner Scottie Scheffler.


“Not easy to back it up, but he’s in good form and so we’ve got to press,” DeChambeau said of Schauffele.


Smith also finished with a 68, his only dropped shot coming on the 5th hole after two consecutive birdies had moved him to 4 under. He said he “scraped it around” coming down the stretch but was happy with his position.


“I think it’s easy to keep pushing and doing all that stuff, but we stayed really smart today,” said the Ripper GC captain. “We just stuck to our game plan. There’s another three days. We might not get a round like that, but we might get another decent round to try and make up some ground.


“There’s plenty of golf left. And it’s major golf, too. You just got to keep doing all the right stuff and I think we did that today.”


Kaymer, the 2010 PGA Champion, had a different test of patience Thursday after three three-putt bogeys in his first nine holes. Fortunately, he mixed in plenty of birdies – five in his first 12 holes. He added two more birdies (and another bogey) in his last four holes to shoot 68.


It was a continuation of his recent improved play that saw the Cleeks GC captain finish inside the top 20 in his two most recent starts.


Like the other LIV captains, Kaymer is not worried Schauffele’s hot start.


“There’s always one or two guys that shoot those low numbers, but they don’t really run away. They don’t really run away with 8 or 9 under par. So they’re going to have a ‘decent’ day on the next three days, and that’s the day where I need to keep up or make up some ground.”



RIPPERS KEEP RIPPING: Half of the all-Australian team that has won the last two LIV Golf team titles are competing at Valhalla this week – and both had solid opening rounds Thursday.


Captain Cam Smith shot a 3-under 68 and his teammate Lucas Herbert shot a 2-under 69 that included four consecutive birdies after a shaky start in which he was 2 over through his first five holes.


The two played a practice round on Tuesday, and Herbert enjoyed seeing his captain’s score while glancing at the leaderboard.


“I saw Cam was 4 under at one point and said, geez, we’re got to be going all right in the teams’ event today, don’t we,” Herbert joked. “It’s good mojo to have when you obviously come off a couple of wins like that and feel like you’ve got a lot of confidence.”


Added Smith: “Good to see Herbie playing well. He seems to think his game’s turning around. I think he’s always been a good player and he just need a little confidence injection.”


HERBERT’S SHORTER DRIVER: Perhaps that confidence injection will be supplied by an adjustment Herbert made with his driver, as he shortened the length of the shaft by a half-inch for this week in order to gain some accuracy off the tee.


“This was a good week just to try something different to get it in play a bit more often,” Herbert said.


KAYMER’S RESURGENCE: Plagued by wrist issues for most of his LIV Golf career, Cleeks GC Captain Martin Kaymer is finally back to full health and starting to see good results. His T-14 finish in Adelaide was his best finish since midway of the inaugural 2022 season, and he followed with another top-20 finish in Singapore. His 3-under 68 on Thursday is another positive step.


Asked when was the last time he felt this confident with his game, the two-time major winner replied: “I would say probably three, four years ago. The injury happened in 2020 and was just lingering around and so it took me a long time to come back.”


BURMESTER’S HOT START: Stinger GC’s Dean Burmester opened with three birdies in his first four holes, including a hole-out from 84 feet at the par-3 11th. He cooled off with consecutive bogeys and then battled through a rollercoaster final nine to shoot a 2-under 69.



Gideon Canice

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