Retief Goosen, the US Open Champion of 2001, staked his claim for his second Major title, when he completed his delayed first round in the US PGA Championship, carding an excellent three under par 69 at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota.
It moved the 2001 Volvo Order of Merit winner into a share of third place with fellow European Tour Members Peter Lonard and Justin Rose, who managed to complete their first rounds on Thursday before darkness fell, the trio one shot adrift of pacesetters Fred Funk and Jim Furyk.
When the end came for Goosen after 15 holes of his first round on Thursday night, the 33 year old South African was two under par following birdies at the tenth, his opening hole of the day, the 18th and the second, and one bogey at the fourth.
But having to come back at the crack of dawn to complete his second round did not faze Goosen, par figures coming at the sixth and seventh holes before he notched a birdie two at the 178 yard eighth. A par four to finish saw him complete a highly satisfactory opening round.
Sharing that feeling was Rose, who adapted superbly to his first taste of Major Championship golf in America with a fine opening 69. It was a perfect start to his Major career in America, the winner of two titles already on The European Tour International Schedule in 2002 quickly adapting to the pace of the greens and showing confidence to not let the occasional bogey get him down.
One of those came at the ninth but Rose provided the perfect response with birdies at the tenth and 12th to move to two under par for the tournament. The Englishman bogeyed the 13th after finding sand but again quickly recovered with a birdie at the long 15th, chipping to six feet and holing out.
Through the back of the green at the 16th, Rose showed composure to pitch and putt for par before an excellent tee shot at the 182 yard 17th set up a birdie putt from 12 feet which he rolled in with aplomb.
“It’s been a fantastic start for me,” admitted Rose. “It was a tricky day, a difficult day with the wind but my putting was the key for me. The speed of my putts was very good which meant I didn’t leave myself too many tricky three or four footers.
“I didn’t really have any butterflies in my stomach at the start, I was quite calm and focused and all I was really thinking about was trying to get zoned in on my swing keys which I managed to do well.
“I also had my family out here with me and they walked all the way round which was really nice. I try to keep a look out for them on every hole, so that was nice to have faces you recognise in the crowds.”
Alongside Rose, Lonard, who finished 11th in the US Open Championship at Bethpage State Park and tied for 14th in the Open Golf Championship at Muirfield, continued his excellent showing in Majors with another solid round.
Birdies at the eighth and 14th moved the Australian to two under par before successive birdies at the 16th and 17th from 15 feet saw Lonard momentarily in a share of the lead. But he dropped a shot at the last after driving into a fairway bunker and clipping the top of the sand with his attempted escape.
“The type of golf we are playing here is similar to the type and conditions I was used to growing up in Australia so I feel comfortable here,” said Lonard. “I felt confident early in the year and confidence breeds confidence, so hopefully I can keep that going.”
One shot behind Goosen, Lonard and Rose, the European Tour challenge was maintained by Bernhard Langer, another player who had to come back to complete his first round and who did so in style with a 70, while Angel Cabrera, Nick Faldo, Padraig Harrington, Greg Norman, Adam Scott and Vijay Singh, all opened with one under par 71s.
Another player to finish with a 71 was World Number One Tiger Woods while amongst those on level par 72 were further European Tour Members José Coceres, Ernie Els and Pierre Fulke.
Els, the winner of the Open Golf Championship at Muirfield last month, partnered Woods and looked like he was set to outscore the American when he birdied his opening two holes, the tenth and 11th. But the South African could not maintain the momentum and he had to settle for a level par opener.
Alongside him, Fulke continued to show the upturn in form which saw him finish in the top 30 in the Open and tied for sixth in The TNT Open, as four birdies and four bogeys made up his 72.
At the head of affairs, joint leaders Funk and Furyk shared identical rounds of 68, both players picking up five birdies and dropping their only shots of the day at the 204 yard 13th.