Past champions were in good shape about seven hours into the opening round of the PGA Championship on Thursday at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C.
Keegan Bradley and Brooks Koepka were co-leaders after shooting 3-under-par 69s. They were joined by Norwegian Viktor Hovland.
Collin Morikawa is a shot back at 2 under after a bogey on No. 18 to finish his round.
Koepka, the 2018 and 2019 champion, had knee surgery in March and his status for the tournament had appeared in jeopardy.
“I can deal with pain,” Koepka said.
Bradley, the 2011 champion, didn’t let a bogey on No. 13 disrupt his flow as he had pars the rest of the way.
Morikawa, the defending champion whose only victory in a major came in August in the rescheduled tournament in northern California, was in contention despite bogeys on No. 18, No. 3 and No. 9. He started on No. 10.
Morikawa was playing with reigning U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and last month’s Masters winner Hideki Matsuyama of Japan. This was the first time in four years that Morikawa entered a tournament as a defending champion.
Hovland, a former college golfer for Oklahoma State who began on the back side, had only one bogey in the round.
“I feel like I have the shots to have a chance to win,” Hovland said.
Martin Laird of Scotland appeared to be on his way to the clubhouse leader, but he had bogeys on the last two holes and ended up with a 2-under 70.
Laird strung together four consecutive birdies on Nos. 13-16. He had only one par on his final 10 holes. The back nine gave Laird a substantial turnaround as he was at 2 over through five holes earlier in the day.
Laird has said the layout fits his eye, though he anticipates a challenging few days.
“This place could be as difficult as you’ll ever play,” Laird said.
Cameron Tringale also shot 70, though he dropped a couple of shots with a pair of bogeys on the back nine. Among those in the first group of the day off the first tee, he was 4 under through 11 holes.
Tringale has earned almost $14 million without capturing a tournament championship on the PGA Tour.
Half the field had afternoon tee times with expected finishes in the early evening. Dustin Johnson, who was a runner-up in the past two PGA Championships, was among those with a mid-afternoon tee time.
Rounds were taking more than five hours to complete.
DeChambeau struggled to an even round 72. Matsuyama finished with a 1-over 73.
Rory McIlroy was the champion on the Ocean Course when the PGA Championship was held there in 2012. He shot a 3-over 75 in his opening round.
–Field Level Media