Recap of the day
Morning session: Tony Finau never found the leaderboard in the PGA Championship, finishing down in 64th place, but this morning he roared to the top with a seven-birdie 64, his low round at Colonial. That was just a shot in front of Jordan Spieth and Roger Sloan. Spieth put on a putting clinic in his 65 while Sloan hit 11 fairways, eight more than leader Finau! Despite the windy conditions, receptive greens allowed plenty of other good scores and seven players shared fourth spot on 3-under 67. They included two-time Colonial runner-up Jason Dufner.
Afternoon session: Winds picked up for the afternoon wave, gusting to 25mph and above. In fact, with temperatures hitting the 90s, ground-staff were concerned about the greens drying out so opted to water them. Scoring was certainly much tougher although Nick Watney and Jonas Blixt battled away to card 67s and join the logjam on 3-under.
Revised outright betting: 10/3 Spieth, 4/1 Finau, 20/1 Casey, 25/1 Molinari, 30/1 Sabbatini.
Friday weather forecast
There’s a possible chance of a t-storm throughout the morning as temperatures climb into the mid-80s and peak around 90 at 4pm. Once again, winds are a big factor. They look set to pick up to 20mph and higher in the afternoon.
Leaders after 18 holes
Tony Finau (64) – Switching to a claw putting grip, “an itch I wanted to scratch”, Finau saw immediate rewards as he gained over 3 strokes with the flatstick. Bizarrely, he found just 3 (of 14) fairways and yet hit 16 GIR although he explained the discrepancy later (see quotes). He ended the day ranked 1st for SG: Approach and GIR.
Jordan Spieth (65) – Spieth ranked 1st for SG: Putting in the PGA Championship but hit even greater heights today. The eye-widening numbers: 15/15 from inside 15 feet, 152 feet of putts made and the best single-round SGP performance of his career (over 5.4). This, after hitting half the fairways and 11 GIRs.
Roger Sloan (65) – A solid display from the Canadian as he missed just three fairways and three greens. The putter was strong too. Recorded six birdies and just a single bogey (see more on Sloan below in Focus On).
Fate of the favourites
Jon Rahm (75) – Bogey at 2, double bogey at 3, triple bogey at 14. Rahm missed the cut at Bethpage and his poor play continued here. Hit only half the greens in the right number.
Justin Rose (74) – Rose won the title here with 20-under last year but found Colonial a very different animal in the strong afternoon winds. Made the turn in even par but swallowed four bogeys coming home. Hit just 10 greens and lost strokes in all the main categories.
Jordan Spieth (65) – See above
Rickie Fowler (74) – “I was a little off on the swing last week and tried to fight my way around, which I did a great job of for three rounds and struggled in the wind on Sunday.” This was Fowler pre-tournament. After some “tweaks” could he make a fast start at Colonial? That would be no. Four bogeys, 14 pars and not a single birdie. Hit just 6 (of 14) fairways, 8 greens and the putter was stone cold.
Tony Finau (64). “I hit a lot of drivers. Only hit an iron off the tee once and 4-wood one time. I do think it's a golf course you have the opportunity to push it up if you want to, and I was able to take advantage of some of my length there today. I hit a lot of greens. I didn't know I only hit three fairways. For the most part when I missed the fairway it was the first cut or in the bunker. I feel like you still have a chance from there, more so than the rough.”
Jordan Spieth (65): “I would've signed for it before the day started. A few under when the wind blows out here is a really nice score. It's tough to hit fairways and hold the fairways. Certainly pleased. Could use hitting a few more fairways and a few more greens around Colonial the rest of the week, but the putter blade is sharp and I was able to save my pars and capitalize on a couple long ones.”
Roger Sloan (65): “We hit the ball very solidly and I hit a couple good putts out there. My swing coach is in the Dallas area and he told me this golf course would suit me well. I like it. You kind of have to be a little methodical around there and I enjoy courses like that. It's not always a driver off the tee or 3-wood.”
Ryan Palmer (68): “It was a good day. It was real solid, worked on a flighted shot on the range because I knew I was going to need it around this golf course with the winds. Never really got in trouble. Made some good par saves from three, four, five feet. Never really got it close enough to make some more birdies. Didn't play the par-5s great. Overall, 2-under, no bogeys, great shape.”
Road to victory at Colonial
2018 Justin Rose – R1: 8th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2017 Kevin Kisner – R1: 7th, R2: 1st, R3: 4th
2016 Jordan Spieth – R1: 9th, R2: 3rd, R3: 1st
2015 Chris Kirk – R1: 26th, R2: 15th, R3: 4th
2014 Adam Scott – R1: 64th, R2: 36th, R3: 11th
Notes: The last six winners here have been 4, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 5 shots back respectively so the top of the R1 leaderboard may not be the best place to identify this week’s winner. In fact, Adam Scott (2014) and Rory Sabbatini (2007) were both tied 64th after 18 holes before bursting through the field to win. However, another take is that eight of the last 11 champions were inside the top ten after round one.
Fate of the first-round leaders at Colonial – where did they finish?
2018 Kevin Na – 4th
2017 Kelly Kraft – 18th, J.T. Poston – 41st, Derek Fathauer – 48th
2016 Bryce Molder – 10th
2015 Jordan Spieth – 2nd, Kevin Na – 10th, Boo Weekley – 33rd, Ryo Ishikawa – 43rd
2014 Dustin Johnson – 14th
Notes: David Toms (2011) and Zach Johnson (2012) both went on to claim to victory after holding the 18-hole lead but since then only Jordan Spieth (runner-up in 2015) has finished better than 10th so recent R1 leaders have found it tough.
Focus On – Tony Finau
Tony Finau. World No. 16 having once reached No. 9. Top ten in four of his last six majors. Seven times in the top 20 in just 13 major starts. A runner-up and never worse than T27 in five WGC strokeplay starts. And yet, he still hasn’t won a PGA TOUR event on American soil. Finau does have a victory at this level, the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, but it’s a meagre return for one so talented. This is the fifth time he’s held the outright lead on the PGA TOUR although three of those were joint leads and the other, like this, by a single stroke. His eventual finishes? Seventh at the 2014 OHL Classic, 16th at The Barclays in 2015, sixth at the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open and runner-up at the 2018 Genesis Open. One problem for Finau is that he’s never quite backed those strong starts up with another lowish one. His R2 scores in those events were 71, 70, 69 and 72 and, each time, he lost the lead. Can he change the script this week? Hitting just three fairways says no. Pelting 16 greens says perhaps.
Focus On – Roger Sloan
The Canadian had missed his last five cuts on the PGA TOUR before arriving in Texas this week. So, any clues that he might find something? An opening 82 at The Heritage, a course with some good correlations, immediately puts us off the scent but how about the Puerto Rico Open? As mentioned, that is the scene of leader Tony Finau’s only win and a check of Sloan’s results shows he was runner-up there earlier this year. The link? Wind. It blew when Finau won and in the two rounds the wind topped 15mph at Puerto Rico this year, Sloan shot 67, improving his position by 16 and 12 shots respectively.