2024 PGA Championship leaderboard: Xander Schauffele surges to top with Rory

Stop if you’ve heard this before: Xander Schauffele has a chance to a win a big-time golf tournament. The 30-year-old was flawless Thursday at Valhalla Golf Club opening his 2024 PGA Championship with a record-setting 62 to take the solo lead.

Schauffele heads into Friday’s second round with a three-stroke lead over Tony Finau and Sahith Theegala, a position he is all too familiar with. A first-round leader just last week in Charlotte and just last year in Los Angeles at the U.S. Open, Schauffele is no stranger to starting fast and playing high-level golf over the span of multiple days.

“Probably, yeah [I’m playing the best golf of my career],” Schauffele said after completing his first round in Louisville. “I feel there’s spurts, moments in time where you feel like you can control the ball really well, you’re seeing the greens really well, you’re chipping really well. But over a prolonged period, it’s tough to upkeep high performance. Yeah, I’d say it’s very close to it if not it.”

The Olympic gold medalist is undoubtedly playing the best golf of his career despite his hesitation to claim as much. He entered this week’s championship ranked second worldwide in total strokes gained this year — trailing only world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler — but while the statistics and numbers are all fine and dandy, the lack of trophies is all anyone can talk about.

It’s not as if Schauffele doesn’t know how to win — he does have seven PGA Tour victory and a gold medal to his name — it’s just that failure in big moments has become all too common since his last triumph nearly two years ago.

This year alone, there was the Players Championship where two late bogeys and a red-hot Scheffler derailed Schauffele’s chances of capturing his biggest title to date. And just last week, there was the Wells Fargo Championship where a four-stroke lead at the halfway point somehow turned into the Rory McIlroy show come Sunday.

“I think not winning makes you want to win more, as weird as that is,” Schauffele said. “For me, at least, I react to it, and I want it more and more and more, and it makes me want to work harder and harder and harder. The top feels far away, and I feel like I have a lot of work to do. But just slowly chipping away at it.”

Schauffele’s talent is undeniable; his skillset might be as well-rounded as they come in professional golf, and he only continues to improve as noted by subtle changes like a not-so-subtle increase in clubhead speed this year alone.

We saw it on full display Thursday — and there is a good chance we see it over the next couple days as well — but even Schauffele knows in his heart of hearts that he’ll need to show it when it matters most (or it may not matter at all).

“It’s a great start to a big tournament,” Schauffele said. “One I’m obviously always going to take. It’s just Thursday. That’s about it.”

2024 PGA Championship, Round 1 leaderboard

T2. Tony Finau, Sahith Theegala (-6): Finau enjoyed plenty of major championship success early in his career but not a whole lot as of late. His opening bogey-free 65 marks the lowest opening round of his major career and it comes courtesy of hitting 16 greens in regulation and gaining more than three strokes with the putter. Finau’s flatstick isn’t the most cooperative club in his bag, but if it persists into the weekend the rest of his game should be up to the task.

T4. Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa, Robert MacIntyre, Tom Kim, Tom Hoge and Thomas Detry (-5): It was a little bit of an odd first nine holes for McIlroy as he opened with two birdies in his first four holes and then took on some water (literally). A bogey on No. 17 was followed by a big-right miss with the driver on 18 resulting in his tee ball finding the water. In the middle of his round, McIlroy missed five straight fairways and somehow came out of that stretch in an even-par fashion. It might not seem like much, but that’s massive at a course like Valhalla and it set the stage for a fast finish that included three straight birdies from Nos. 5-7.

“I sort of felt like it was pretty scrappy for the most part,” McIlroy said. “I don’t really feel like I left many out there. I thought I got a lot out of my game today. Some good up-and-downs, the chip-in on 6. I had a little bit of a scrappy part around the turn there, but overall, really happy with — not really happy with how I played but at least happy with the score.”

T10. Brooks Koepka, Scottie Scheffler, Taylor Moore, Ben Kohles, Alex Noren and others (-4): The defending champion is right there yet again. Koepka was in neutral most of the day but finished with a flurry of blows which included an eagle on No. 7 and a long-distance connection on No. 8. The five-time major champion was sensational from tee to green and made next to nothing with the putter outside of the birdie on his second-to-last hole. That club has been somewhat problematic in 2024, but it wouldn’t be shocking if it turns into a weapon over the next 54.

Meanwhile, Scheffler was shot out of a cannon and announced his return to golf in the form of an opening eagle from the middle of the fairway on No. 1. The top player in the game navigated Valhalla without much stress leading the field in strokes gained tee to green (shocker) and even leaving a couple short putts out there. Still, Scheffler is on the first two pages of the leaderboard and despite being five strokes off the 18-hole pace, he’s the name others are looking at.

T18. Bryson DeChambeau, Viktor Hovland, Cameron Smith, Max Homa and others (-3): How far back is too far back after 18 holes? Well, history suggests six is the magic number meaning these heavy hitters still have a chance for a slice of immortality. The big four of this group all got to the 3-under number in varying fashions as DeChambeau and Homa were sluggish out the gate while Hovland Smith surged early. DeChambeau must be the favorite of the bunch to make a significant move as he hit nine fairways, averaged over 310 yards off the tee and connected on 15 greens in regulation. His approach numbers look nice on paper, but they are skewed thanks to his hole-out eagle on No. 7 – the irons will need to be better if he wants to get back into this championship.

T31. Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Matt Fitzpatrick, Shane Lowry, Keegan Bradley and others (-2): Three birdies in his opening four holes put the grand slam conversation at the top of everyone’s mind. Spieth surged early thanks to some strong driving – which has been the case most of the year – but he wasn’t able to do much after.  He dropped a couple shots and wasn’t able to take care of the par-5 7th and turned a round of 67 into a 69 which he just can’t be doing with the state of his game and the state of other’s game well ahead of him.

T46. Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Hideki Matsuyama, Stephan Jaeger, Russell Henley and others (-1): It was a gutsy performance from Rahm on Thursday. The early portion of his round was filled with cuss words, club throws and moments where he looked truly miserable. The two-time major champion was 4 over through his first six holes but played his last 12 in 5 under to sneak into red figures. He might have done too much damage, but he also may have saved his chances to potentially add the third leg of the career grand slam.

T67. Talor Gooch, Jason Day, Wyndham Clark, Will Zalatoris and others (E)

T85. Tiger Woods, Ludvig Åberg, Rickie Fowler, Tommy Fleetwood, Brian Harman and others (+1)

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