PGA Championship: Scottie Scheffler starts with a magnificent eagle, keeps the pressure on Schauffele

LOUISVILLE – Scottie Scheffler stood on the first tee, nine shots behind PGA Championship clubhouse leader Xander Schauffele. Two shots later, Scheffler had reduced Schauffele’s lead to seven.

Scheffler closed in on No. 1 in Valhalla, and suddenly Schauffele’s huge lead no longer seemed so untouchable:

To make it even wilder, this is the third year in a row that a player has won their first hole at the PGA Championship, via Elias Sports Bureau. Scott Stallings and Jesse Mueller won their first match in the previous two years, respectively. However, both missed the cut.

That probably won’t be the case for Scheffler, who has won four of the last five tournaments he’s played in, including the Masters, and was T2 at fifth. He also welcomed the birth of his first child last week. And he just might add another major championship to his overflowing wealth over the next three days.

Scheffler backed up the eagle with a score (for him) of 4-under 67, which put him five shots behind Schauffele. (It could have been four if Scheffler had made a short birdie putt on 18.) The 67 marked Scheffler’s 41st consecutive round of par or better.

“I had a feeling the scores might be low,” Scheffler said. “…I just wanted to put together a solid round, and aside from a few mistakes, I thought I played pretty well today.”

Scheffler is at the point where it’s almost astounding when he’s not deep in the red numbers, and on this day, 4-under proved to be mediocre. This can be attributed in part to the easier scoring achieved in the morning session. By the time Scheffler teeed off in the afternoon, the course had dried out a bit and no one had gone below 5 under.

On Friday, the scenario could be reversed, depending on the weather. Scheffler gets an early start time, while Schauffele and most of the players ahead of the world No. 1 in the rankings (including Tony Finau and Rory McIlroy) will tee off in the afternoon when rain could fall.

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