Americans Rickie Fowler and Troy Merritt each fired seven-under par 64s to share the lead when darkness fell in Thursday’s storm-hit opening round of the US PGA 3M Open.
Fowler produced his lowest score of the year in a bogey-free round to share the top spot at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minnesota.
A lightning delay of two hours and 24 minutes prevented the round from being completed, with the final five groups forced to complete the first round on Friday morning.
Scott Stallings and Adam Schenk shared third on 65 with fellow Americans Chris Baker and Chez Reavie on 66.
Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas was on 6-under with the 18th hole to finish while Canada’s Roger Sloan, a back-nine starter, was on 6-under with two holes to complete.
Former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa shot 68 while two-time major winner Dustin Johnson opened on 70.
World number 104 Fowler, 32, chases his sixth US PGA title and first since the 2019 Phoenix Open while 90th-ranked Merritt, 35, seeks his third tour crown and first since the 2018 Barbasol Championship.
“Drove it a lot better. That was something that was kind of holding me back from making birdies,” Fowler said. “We did a good job of just managing our way around.
“Just felt good. Kept it simple. It was nice to see some putts go in on top of it because that has been another part of the game that really hasn’t helped me a whole lot the last couple years.”
After starting on the back nine with a birdie putt from just outside six feet, Fowler holed a par putt at 11 from just inside eight feet. He tapped in for birdie at the par-5 12th, dropped his approach to six feet setting up a birdie at 15.
Fowler birdied the par-5 18th to launch a run of three birdies in a row, holing putts of 30 feet at the first and 14 feet at the second and adding another from 13 feet at the par-5 sixth. He closed a bogey-free round with three pars.
– Shootout in store –
Fowler ranks 124th on the US PGA season points list, barely in a playoff spot with two weeks remaining in the campaign.
“Take care of what we need to do here, things will all fall into place and work out,” Fowler said.
Merritt birdied the second and sixth holes before closing the front nine with a bogey, then made six birdies on the back nine, the longest among them from 25 feet at the par-3 13th and 23 feet at the par-4 15th. he closed with back-to-back birdie putts from just inside five feet to share the lead.
“It was a pretty solid finish after making a little bit of a mess of nine,” Merritt said. “Just played solid all day. Hit a lot of fairways, lot of greens, had a lot of good looks, a couple two-putt birdies on the back side. That’s what you’ve got to do around this place, you’ve got to make a lot of birdies.
“The scoring is usually really low so if you like shootouts, this is the golf course for you and you’re going to get another one this week.”
© Agence France-Presse