Stenson makes hay even without sunshine at PGA Championship
After Dustin Johnson’s disastrous opening 77 at Baltusrol confounded every so-called expert on day one of the US PGA Championship, other notables left the fairway-missing American for dust.
That includes Open champion Henrik Stenson who hit a three-under-par 67 in deteriorating conditions and has since shot to the front of the betting at 5/1 to be toasting consecutive majors.
American Jimmy Walker is the overnight leader on -5, making the most of perfectly calm and sunny weather in the morning to post what turned out to be an unmatched 65, conjuring six birdies and a bogey.
Walker is now a 16/1 chance with us and although his performance was something of a surprise after a stagnant season, five of the last six winners of the PGA Championship were lifting their first major, so that’s a huge carrot after a stellar start.
However, owing to his recent heroics at Royal Troon, it’s the dialled in figure of Stenson that will be fancied most.
The Claret Jug holder went out in unspectacular fashion by cancelling out birdies at two and six with bogeys at three and nine, but it was the nature of his performance after the turn that should have the field worried.
Facing an increasingly swirly breeze, which made the weight of putts extremely hard to read, the Swede carded three birdies.
A trio of others scored four-under 66s, and among them is 2010 PGA champion Martin Kaymer. The German was back to his inventive best among the afternoon groups and Kaymer is now the third-favourite at 10/1 to add a third major to his collection.
It was a very solid start from defending champion Jason Day too, with the Australian world number one back in the clubhouse after a 68, a very popular morning score, matched by the likes of Rickie Fowler, who is long overdue some majors form himself.
Day is a 6/1 chance to successfully defend the Wanamaker trophy, while Fowler is 16/1 to convert a decent start.
But what of golf’s biggest pinups – Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy?
Well, the latter has a fight on his hands just to make the weekend after shooting a nightmarish 73. The Northern Irishman almost matched DJ for magnetism to the Lower Course’s many hazards, particularly the sandy ones.
Meanwhile, Spieth, at 16/1, is certainly still in the frame after an even-par 70. The Texan’s recent waywardness off the tee was evident with the driver, but some strong irons into the large greens were more encouraging, as was the gradual heating up of his flat stick.
Also facing the cross-winds caused by a passing New Jersey summer storm late in the afternoon, the best-ranked putter on the PGA Tour made birdie at 16 and 18 to finish with a flourish.
That could provide Spieth some momentum for a charge, especially if the morning conditions he faces on Friday are as favourable as Thursday’s.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.