Schauffele gets another major scoring record and sets the pace at PGA Championship

Xander Schauffele has set the PGA Championship record with a 62

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Xander Schauffele saw no reason to change anything in his swing or think any less of his game after yet another close call at ending two years without winning. The idea was to “keep chugging along.”

Thursday looked more like a sprint, right into the PGA Championship record book.

Schauffele seized on soft, still conditions that hardly resembled a major championship test for a 9-under 62, the lowest score in PGA Championship history, and matched another PGA record by building a three-shot lead after the opening round at vulnerable Valhalla.

Sixty-four players broke par, the most ever for a first round at the PGA Championship. The field of 156 players produced 542 birdies and seven eagles on the spongy turf and forgiving greens, with cheers coming from all corners of the course.

It still wasn't enough to get Schauffele, a 30-year-old who oozes California chill, all that excited. He also shot 62 in the first round of the U.S. Open last year at Los Angeles Country Club — so did Rickie Fowler — and finished the week in a tie for 10th.

Schauffele led by three shots over Tony Finau, Sahith Theegala and Mark Hubbard, all reaching 65 with a burst of birdies somewhere along the way.

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler saw Schauffele's score and cared only about putting together a good round in his first competition since his son was born last week.

That he did, holing out with a 9-iron from 167 yards on the first hole for eagle, the highlight in a round of 67. Scheffler failed to birdie the par 5s on the back nine and had a few other mistakes that sent him to the range after his round.

“I felt like there was a couple things I can clean up going into tomorrow, but overall today was a solid round,” Scheffler said after his 41st consecutive round at par or better.

This was an easy day to keep that streak going. Valhalla didn't put up much of a fight. And even players who stumbled from the start had ample opportunity to turn it around.

Jon Rahm opened with four bogeys in six holes, threw a club in disgust on the 16th hole and still managed a 70 by making four birdies down the stretch. Collin Morikawa was 2 over through five holes, but he responded with three straight birdies and finished with a 65.

“You knew there were a lot of birdies out there,” Morikawa said. “It played soft and the greens were pretty slow.”

Even so, Schauffele posted a special round. He one-putted 12 times — two of them for par that he considered crucial to his round — and he didn't go more than one hole without a birdie until the very end, when he finished par-par for the record.

The three-shot lead matches the 18-hole record held by Bobby Nichols in 1964 at Columbus (Ohio) Country Club and Raymond Floyd in 1982 at Southern Hills. Both went on to win, something Schauffele could use.

He had a 54-hole lead last week at Quail Hollow, only for Rory McIlroy to blitz him on the last day with a 65. Schauffele also had a 54-hole lead at The Players Championship and Scheffler shot 64 to beat him by one.

“I’ve just been playing some really solid golf,” he said. “Been having close calls. My team and I, we just say let’s keep chugging along.”

Schauffele had plenty of attention, playing alongside Louisville native Justin Thomas and in the group ahead of Tiger Woods, who was followed by McIlroy. Thomas rallied late for a 69 that required some perspective of his own.

“When you're playing with one of the easiest 9 unders you've ever seen, it makes you feel like you're shooting a million,” Thomas said.

McIlroy, back on the course where he won his last major 10 years ago, ran off three birdies late in his round for a 66 that left him in a large group that included Morikawa and Tom Kim.

There had been 17 scores of 63 at the PGA Championship, most recently Koepka in the opening round at Bethpage Black in 2019. The list includes Jose Maria Olazabal at Valhalla in 2000 during the third round. Schauffele did one better.

He hit 6-iron to a pin back and left on the par-3 11th to 2 feet — his second hole of the day — followed by a 15-foot par save on the 12th, one of the few times he was out of position.

Schauffele birdied three of the last four holes on the back nine for a 31, and then he ran off three birdies in a four-hole stretch — no putt longer than 10 feet — on the front nine. He had to get up-and-down from behind the green on the par-3 eighth to a front pin, and he two-putted for par from 30 feet on the ninth hole.

That makes four rounds of 62 in all the majors, and Schauffele has two of them. Branden Grace also shot 62 in the third round at Royal Birkdale in the 2017 British Open.

And then he began the 24-hour wait before his next shot on Friday afternoon.

“The greens will be a little bit bumpier with a lot of foot traffic coming through. Who knows with the weather — it might rain — so the course might be playing completely different,” Schauffele said. “Just going to bed knowing I'm playing some pretty good golf, might just wipe the slate clean.”

It was the perfect recipe for scoring — the sun above, soft turf below, not much wind, and greens still relatively smooth.

“You for sure know there's going to be some holes there for the taking,” Finau said. "You're going to hit some good shots. You're going to have a lot of looks. That's what you saw out there today. ... I think you can go on a run here with the conditions.

“And it's going to make for a fun week.”

It was frustrating for Woods, who holed enough putts and hit enough good shots that he was 1 under going to the final three holes. But he failed to take advantage of the par-5 seventh, and then he three-putted for bogey on his final two holes for a 72. That marked the eighth straight round in which he failed to break par in a major.

“That wasn't the way I like to finish off a round,” Woods said. “Long way to go, and we'll see what happens.”

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