Paul Casey continued his return to form during the first round of the US PGA Championship as a superb 67 left the Englishman two off the lead at Oak Hill Country Club.
Casey, who missed the cut at last year’s US PGA Championship after signing off with a round of 85, began the final Major Championship of 2013 with great purpose in Rochester and afterwards claimed he was back where he belonged on the big stage.
The former World Number Three, down at 169th in the Official World Golf Ranking after struggling for form and fitness before winning the Irish Open at Carton House in June, carded five birdies and two bogeys to finish three under, two off the first round lead shared by American Jim Furyk and Australia’s Adam Scott.
Casey had started inauspiciously with a bogey on the tenth and followed that with eight straight pars to the turn, but he then birdied five of his next seven holes and made sure to check out his name high on the leaderboard as he finished.
"It's a while since my name has been up there and it felt good," said the 36 year old, who broke his collarbone snowboarding at the end of 2011.
"You don't realise how much you miss something until it's gone and sitting on the sofa watching the big events of the last year and a half I have had lots of extra motivation to get back.
"It added another reason for getting out there and working hard and things like Justin (Rose) winning the US Open is good fuel for the fire.
"I got a bit lucky today with a couple of monster birdie putts from 50 feet and 33 feet on the fifth and seventh, but we're off and running. I knew I had to get something going after the turn because I had got through the tough part of the course."
Casey’s compatriot Justin Rose, this week looking to add to the maiden Major he claimed in stunning fashion in the US Open at Merion Golf Club, bounced back from a bogey at the opening hole with four birdies in a front nine 32.
A more modest back nine followed as eight straight pars preceded a second dropped shot of the day at the last after the 33 year old failed to get up and down from a bunker, meaning Rose signed for a two under par 68 and a share of 11th place.
“I think 68 is a good start in a Major Championship,” said Rose, who played alongside leader Scott. “The course did offer the opportunity to get it going low, as Adam proved. He played some flawless golf on the front nine and I felt that perhaps got me going with him a little bit there around the turn.
“Then obviously around the rain delay, I felt a bit of a struggle coming back out. I lost my rhythm a little bit but all in all, I’m really happy.”
Alongside Rose at two under par after the first round at Oak Hill was the Hampshire man’s Ryder Cup team-mate Martin Kaymer, who compared to Rose seemed invigorated by the unplanned rest when storms rolled in.
Kaymer’s first round had earlier promised to yield an even lower total, as the 2010 US PGA Champion made two birdies either side of a stunning eagle at the par five 13th, where he holed out from 160 yards with an eight iron.
The German had a scrappy finish, though, making two bogeys in succession to finish three shots off the lead.
He said: “I played really well today. You have more chances on the back nine as it’s a little bit shorter, but the last two holes are very tough.
“The strategy will stay the same over the next three days: hit fairways and greens, give yourself chances, avoid the big numbers.”