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Day 1 Action

PGA Championship 2021 live updates: Brooks Koepka starts strong, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth struggle

Jamie Squire

The anticipation of major week finally subsides on a Thursday—and though we enjoyed the early-week storylines at Kiawah Island, we are excited this one is here. The intrigue of what to expect at the Ocean Course, known as one of the toughest courses in the nation, has added to the run-up of this 103rd PGA Championship. Will it play tougher than it did in 2012, when the second-round scoring average was 78.1, the toughest day in PGA history? Will the winds pick up and make this seaside faux links course even more difficult?

(Scroll down for the latest updates)

Of course, then there’s the champion here in 2012, Rory McIlroy—who went 553 days without a PGA Tour victory until a win in his last start at Quail Hollow—as he entered the week as the betting favorite. This week will prove the ultimate test to whether McIlroy’s game is back to the elite levels we’ve seen from the four-time major champion.

And that’s not to diminish the other storylines of these other players . . . Jordan Spieth pursuing the career Grand Slam as he has reemerged as one of the world’s best. Bryson DeChambeau, with his power and brawn, will likely apply a different strategy than other players—and how will that translate to Kiawah Island?

As we said, the anticipation for the week is so strong. We’re happy not to wait any longer.

Below, you will find the most significant updates from Day 1 at Kiawah Island.

8 p.m.: OK, let's wrap things up as the final groups scramble to finish before it gets too dark. Corey Conners is your leader after Day 1 at five under. There are six players two behind at three under, including Brooks Koepka, who will get some nice rest for that right knee before Friday's 1:58 tee time. Phil Mickelson is one behind that group in an even bigger group at two under. In other words, there are a lot of people still in the mix. And we haven't even seen the wind really start to blow. Should be a fun few more days. We'll see you again in the morning!

7:45 p.m.: Tough finish for Dustin Johnson as he double bogeys his final hole. The World No. 1 never got much going on Day 1, but was only two over until his waste area adventure on Kiawah's 18th hole. DJ made more double bogeys than birdies in the first round.

7:30 p.m.: A closing bogey by Jordan Spieth caps a disappointing opening round for the man looking to finish off the career Grand Slam this week. But at one over, Spieth certainly didn't shoot himself out of the tournament. Spieth gained nearly a stroke and a half on the field off the tee, but surprisingly, lost almost two strokes on the greens. You have to figure, he'll roll a few more putts in as the tournament goes on.

7 p.m.: Play seems to have grinded to a halt here with numerous rules questions popping up involving Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, and Jordan Spieth among others. It's unclear if they're going to finish today, which is crazy considering the fantastic scoring conditions. Speaking of those, Cam Davis has joined the group at three under and is the only player on the course who could possibly catch Corey Conners today. Stay tuned.

6:30 p.m.: Barring something crazy, Corey Conners is going to be the Day 1 leader after firing an opening 67. At five under, Conners is currently two clear of a fivesome at three under. Although this will be his first time leading a major championship at the end of any round, he's no stranger to being on the leader board at a big event. Conners has top 10s at the past two Masters and he finished seventh at the Players earlier this year.

6 p.m.: Phil Mickelson won't need that USGA special exemption into next month's U.S. Open if he keeps this up. The five-time major champ birdies the par-5 16th to move to two under. Mickelson, who won his lone PGA in 2005, doesn't have a top-20 finish this season, but his best result was a T-21 at last month's Masters. He finished T-36 at Kiawah in the 2012 PGA.

5:30 p.m.: Corey Conners takes the lead by holing a putt from off the green at the par-4 15th. The Canadian hasn't won this season, but he's been on fire since a solo third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Conners has three top 10s since, including a T-8 at the Masters. He entered this week ranked 12th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained off the tee and sixth in strokes gained approach. So, yeah, he's a ball-striker.

5 p.m.: The biggest surprise of the tournament? That essay about the wind by Stephen A. Smith that kicked off the top of the hour on ESPN. "I AM GOD BREATHING! I AM THE OCEAN SEETHING!" We're not making this up. It really happened. And so far, the wind at KiaWIND Island hasn't been too bad as evidenced by all the red on the leader board. HOWEVAH, three under has proven to be a bit of a barrier with six players, including Brooks Koepka, still tied at that number. We'll see if anyone can post anything better over the final couple hours of play.

4:30 p.m.: Branden Grace has joined the fray at three under. And on his 32nd birthday, no less! The nine-time European Tour winner became a second-time PGA Tour winner earlier this year at the Puerto Rico Open. And his other PGA Tour win came at another South Carolina Pete Dye design, Harbour Town. Just saying. . .

4 p.m.: The British are coming! The British are coming! Again, that is! As we saw in 2012, there's a nice contigent of English players near the top of Kiawah's leader board. Tyrrell Hatton, Paul Casey, and Tom Lewis posted 71s. Ian Poulter and Sam Horsfield are currently at two under, and Justin Rose is also in red figures. Then there's the Scot, Martin Laird, who is also at two under and just one behind the lead. The Ocean Course may not be a PURE LINKS track, but a lot of golfers from across the pond clearly feel pretty comfortable here.

3:30 p.m.: In what is becoming a familiar—and purposeful?–theme, many players are hitting tee shots into the left grandstands on No. 18. Not that we need to specify which side because the Atlantic Ocean is to the right. Anyway, the situation winds up giving golfers a free drop on a bare lie, not the worst result. Sebastian Munoz became the latest to pull off this trick after his golf ball wound up in a trash can. He gave it away to a fan (lucky girl!) before hitting his approach up by the fringe.

3 p.m.: Aaron Wise joins the fray at 69, narrowly missing a lengthy birdie attempt on his final hole. Will anyone top that in the afternoon? It's certainly possible with Corey Conners already at three under thru seven and Patrick Cantlay quickly jumping to two under after holing out for eagle on No. 2. We've got a shootout on our hands at Kiawah! Not really, but also, the scoring hasn't been as difficult as many predicted. At least, not yet.

2:30 p.m.: Rules! We have a rules issue! And a rare one at that! How about a penalty for SLOW PLAY?! Yep, that's what happened to John Catlin on the third hole (his 12th of the day) after being warned on No. 16. Wow. It's the first slow play penalty handed out at a major since 14-year-old Tianlang Guan was docked a stroke at the 2013 Masters. As many pointed out, Catlin, who has won three times on the European Tour in the past year, is not a PGA Tour member. The 30-year-old Californian played his college golf at the University of New Mexico. With the one-stroke penalty, Catlin opened with a three-over-par 75 in his major championship debut.

2 p.m.: Brooks Koepka juuuuuust misses one final birdie on No. 9, but settles for par and an opening 69. That's good for a share of the lead right now with Keegan Bradley and Viktor Hovland. Collin Morikawa is also at three under playing his final hole. On the flip side, Brooks' playing partners, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas both shoot three over. Pretty impressive stuff from Koepka considering his recovering knee, the fact he's missed his past two cuts, and the double bogey he made on his first hole of the day. Needless to say, it's not a good sign for the rest of the field that this four-time major champ is at the top of the leader board.

1:25 p.m.: And just like that, Brooks Koepka is tied for the lead at three under. Actually, he's probably a bit miffed after missing a makeable eagle put for the outright lead on No. 7. His playing partners are NOT tied for the lead. Rory McIlroy bogeys the hole to fall to two over, while Justin Thomas makes birdie to move to three over. That's what you call a mixed bag for this morning marquee group.

1 p.m.: Beware the injured golfer—especially if that injured golfer is a four-time major champ. There were a lot of questions swirling around Brooks Koepka heading into this week, but his right knee is looking good so far. After beginning his tournament with a double bogey on the 10th hole, Koepka recovered with five birdies, including back-to-back ones on holes 4 and 5 to move to two under par. And history is on his side as Brooks is the only golfer to win the PGA Championship in the month of May. OK, so that history is just one year, but still.

12:30 p.m.: We've got a bit of a logjam developing at the top of the leader board with five guys currently tied at three under. The latest guy to move to that number? Defending champ Collin Morikawa after a birdie on the par-5 second, his 11th hole of the day. He's joined by Keegan Bradley, Martin Laird and Tom Lewis. Of those who have completed their first rounds, Cameron Tringale, the PGA Tour's all-time money leader among non-winners, is in the clubhouse at two under. So he's on track to make another nice check. But seriously, with the wind expected to pick up this afternoon, anything under par is a great round. Heck, anything under par pretty much anytime at the Ocean Course is a great round.

12 p.m.: Keegan Bradley, who ranks seventh on the PGA Tour in first-round scoring average, is having himself a Thursday. The former PGA champion is four under through 12 without a bogey. Now, it's time for the gauntlet that is the final six holes at Kiawah. If he goes bogey-free through that stretch, too, he's going to love the way he looks by day's end, we guarantee it.

11:30 a.m.: Quick glance at the leader board is giving off crazy early 2010s vibes. Keegan Bradley at three under, Jason Dufner at three under, Bubba Watson at two under. What the hell is going on?

11:14 a.m.: Credit to Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy, who played their opening hole (par-4 10th) in a combined three over. They both just made tidy up-and-down pars at the 18th, each turning in even-par 36. Can't win it on Thursday, but you can absolutely lose it, and these two big hitters somehow avoided doing that (so far) after dreadful starts. Couple birdies on the back nine and they are firmly in the mix. Justin Thomas, the third member of this group, was plugging along nicely at even through eight, but he just made double bogey at the 18th. Ouch.

10:59 a.m.: Bryson's high-wire act finally catches up with him on the back nine, as he makes four straight bogeys to drop all the way to two over. That puts him six back of Australia's Matt Jones, who is your solo leader at four under. Just as that was typed, Bryson DeChambeau hit what will likely be the shot of the day at the par-3 17th, damn near jarring it for an ace. Thought that hole was supposed to be hard?

10:22 a.m.: Not a ton of action over the last hour, as guys are grinding for pars. It's not blowing crazy hard and we're still seeing guys hit it all over the map, which makes you wonder how tough it could get if we get some gale force winds. Lovers of carnage must be salivating.

As it stands, Cameron Tringale, Matt Jones and Erik van Rooyen are tied for the lead at three under.

9:38 a.m.: Bryson DeChambeau, who has not sniffed a fairway and quite frankly, has been off the map entirely, is two under after rolling in back-to-back long birdie putts. That is, uh, scary. God forbid he figures it out with the driver.

9:32 a.m.: To the surprise of literally no one, Louis Oosthuizen is tied for the lead at a major championship. The South African is three under through four holes, tied with Tringale, who just made the turn in three under. Rory McIlroy just made another birdie, and now he's at one under. Hell of a recovery after No. 1.

9:08 a.m.: OK, Rory and Koepka have righted the ship. Rory just went driver, 7-iron on the 571-yard par-5 11th hole and narrowly missed the eagle putt—so the birdie will get him back to even-par through 2.

Koepka, after another tee shot that missed way right, caught a nice lie and was able to make a birdie, too. Koepka is 1-over through 2.

8:56 a.m.: Away from the madness of that opening hole for the marquee group, there is some actual good golf being played. Rickie Fowler, most notably, just made his second birdie—moving to 2-under through his first five holes. Louis Oosthuizen and Zach Johnson both eagled the 11th hole to also get to 2-under. And Cameron Tringale keeps putting up birdies—his latest one coming at the downwind par-5 seventh hole—to take the early outright lead at 3-under.

8:35 a.m.: What a trainwreck of a start from our marquee pairing. Rory McIlroy's first tee shot here at the 10th hole just went waayyyy right. A bit reminiscient of the 2019 Open Championship when he hit it OB at Royal Portrush. But ... that was really just the begining ...

Brooks Koepka, as Rory was dropping behind him, thinned a bunker shot into the hill in front of him ... and he couldn't advance his third shot more than 50 yards.

Rory couldn't hold the green with his third shot, but he just a terrific sand shot, which spun back to inside 4 feet. The Northern Irishman minimized the damage with an opening bogey ... not too bad all things considered.

Koepka, meanwhile, could only manage a double bogey ... that's a disaster start for the four-time major champion.

The third member of the group, Justin Thomas, made a less interesting par—though he did hit a very good sand shot to scramble for that 4. Let's see what else this group gives us early on Thursday.

8:15 a.m.: Now Jimmy Walker and Jason Dufner are knocking in birdie putts. This is a little Throwback Thursday going on at the Ocean Course. J-Walker, the 2016 PGA champion at Baltusrol, birdied Nos. 1 and 2 to take the outright lead here early. The San Antonio native has fallen outside the top 500 in the world, so this is a rare bright spot in his past couple of years.

8:10 a.m.: Two major stalwarts join the party at 1-under early: Paul Casey two-putted for birdie at the par-5 11th hole. Casey seems like he hasn't missed a shot yet, burning a couple edges with birdie putts.

Rickie Fowler is also at 1-under after an up-and-down birdie at the 11th hole. Of course, Rickie needed a special exemption to earn an invitation to this PGA Championship, with Rickie falling out of the top 100 in the world.

7:52 a.m.: It's the 30th anniversary of John Daly's 1991 PGA win at Crooked Stick, and the former PGA champion is off to a WILD start. He drove it in the rough, his approach bounded off the green deep into a transition area—then he holed out the shot from the sand. A ho-hum start for the 55-year-old.

Adam Scott just started his day with a triple bogey at the 10th hole after losing his opening tee ball. Big John Daly beating Scott by four shots after one hole? We might be in for a wild week at Kiawah...

There are now five players tied atop the early leader board:

John Daly, Jimmy Walker, Cameron Tringale, Ben Polland (club pro curently at Shooting Star Golf Club in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and George Coetzee ... all 1-under early.

7:33 a.m.: George Coetzee of South Africa makes the first birdie of the 2021 PGA Championship, pouring in this birdie putt at No. 1 to be the first in red numbers.

7 a.m.: The 103rd PGA Championship got underway in fitting fashion, with PGA pro Patrick Rada, head professional at McArthur Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla., hitting the first tee shot. Rada is a South Carolina native, so having the University of South Carolina native starting us off on Kiawah Island was the proper way to start.