New Zealand golfer Ryan Fox has posted a steady opening round at the US PGA Championship that's left him near the top of the leaderboard after most of the field struggled on day one of golf's second major of 2022.
Fox qualified for the prestigious event after a rich vein of form saw him claim a top 10 finish at the British Masters and a second-place finish at the Soudal Open last weekend.
The Kiwi's opening six holes were some of his best of the round as he recorded two birdies and four pars to place him firmly amongst the early leaders.
However, consecutive bogeys on holes seven and eight dropped him back to even overall as he entered the back nine.
Another bogey on the 11th forced Fox to find some steadiness and he did so, with three straight pars that set him up to land birdies on 15, 16 to lift him inside the top 20 on the leaderboard.
However, Fox took three shots to find the hole from a favourable position on the 18th to finish his round with a bogey and an even-par round.
While Fox said he was satisfied overall with his opening round, those errors played on his mind as he entered the clubhouse.
"I'm happy enough. I probably left a couple out there, made a couple of silly mistakes and a couple of soft bogeys, especially one on 18," Fox told Newstalk ZB.
Fox said the Southern Hills course was proving to be challenging, with weather conditions only making things harder for the players.
"It's tough out there... there's a score to be had if you play exceptionally well but some of the best players in the world are quite a few over par, so it shows how tricky it can play.
"It was hot and windy out there and it looks like we're going to get more of the same tomorrow."
Going into his second round tomorrow, Fox said he was confident his strong recent form would carry him through those challenges.
"I feel really good about where my game's at and where it's been most of the year.
"I know it's going to be tough tomorrow but I'm certainly not worried about that in any way. I feel like I have all the tools to be able to handle that."
At the time of writing, Fox sits in a tie for 29th overall on the leaderboard.
This is Fox's fourth PGA Championship after last playing in the 2019 tournament when he missed the cut. His best finish was tied for 27th in 2018 at Bellerive Golf Course.
Woods fails to fire
By the time Tiger Woods walked toward the fifth tee box on Friday, the hot start to his return to the PGA Championship had turned cold, and what was quickly becoming a steamy day at Southern Hills had also become an agonising grind.
Two early birdies that had him in the red seemed distant memories, replaced by mishits off the tee, wayward irons into the green, fliers out of bunkers and not enough made putts to save his round. Woods wound up with a 4-over 74 on the same course where he won the 2009 PGA, leaving him weary of the cut line heading into Saturday's second round.
"I got off to a great start and didn't keep it going," said Woods, who was often wincing down the stretch on a right leg that was nearly amputated 15 months ago. "I really didn't give myself any looks for birdie. I was struggling trying to get the ball on the green, and I missed quite a few iron shots both ways. It was a frustrating day."
Painful one, too.
Woods was optimistic that after making it around hilly Augusta National during the Masters, the right leg that was so severely injured in a car crash would fare well on the reasonably flat, compact layout in Tulsa. But whether he was fidgeting with a compression wrap on it during his second nine, or using his driver almost like cane as he walked down the fairways, it quickly became evident that the leg was bothering him.
After knocking his tee shot into the green-side bunker on his penultimate hole, Woods grimaced as he walked gingerly back to his bag. He then leaned heavily on it while watching playing partner Rory McIlroy hit his approach shot.
"My leg is not feeling as good as I would like it to be," acknowledged Woods, who missed last year's tournament at Kiawah Island while recovering. "I just can't load it. Loading hurts, pressing off it hurts and walking hurts, and twisting hurts."
At one point, Woods had five bogeys during an eight-hole stretch, and he added two more on his final two holes. The result was his worst opening around at the PGA since shooting 75 in 2015, when he missed the cut.
"We'll start the recovery process," Woods said, "and get after it tomorrow."
McIlroy finds major form
Rory McIlroy has produced his lowest opening round at a major championship for 11 years with a five-under 65.
It was just what McIlroy needed as he tries to end nearly eight years without a major, many of those chances doomed by bad starts.
"I think when your game is feeling like that, it's just a matter of going out there and really sticking to your game plan, executing as well as you possibly can and just sort of staying in your own little world," McIlroy said.
"I feel like this course, it lets you be pretty aggressive off the tee if you want to be, so I hit quite a lot of drivers out there and took advantage of my length and finished that off with some nice iron play and some nice putting."
Will Zalatoris and Pebble Beach winner Tom Hoge each opened with a 66, while Matt Kuchar and Abraham Ancer were another shot behind.