HomeNewsUS PGA Championship 2023: Scheffler, Hovland and Conners lead at Oak Hill

US PGA Championship 2023: Scheffler, Hovland and Conners lead at Oak Hill

Brooks Koepka and Scottie Scheffler at Oak Hill
Brooks Koepka (left) and Scottie Scheffler enjoyed good scoring conditions at Oak Hill
-5 S Scheffler (US), C Conners (Can), V Hovland (Nor); -3 J Suh (US), B DeChambeau (US); -2 B Koepka (US), C Tarren (Eng); -1 T Pendrith (Can), J Rose (Eng)
Selected Others: E R McIlroy (NI), S Lowry (Ire), K Bradley (US) +1 D Johnson (US) +4 J Rahm (Spa), C Smith (Aus), +5 P Mickelson (US), J Spieth (US), J Thomas (US)
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Scottie Scheffler, Viktor Hovland and Corey Conners lead the US PGA Championship at the halfway point, as Jon Rahm battled to make the cut.

The trio are locked on five under at Oak Hill after Scheffler and Conners shot two-under 68 and Hovland hit a 67.

Bryson DeChambeau is two back, with Brooks Koepka one further adrift, while Rory McIlroy looked in better spirits as he shot 69 to improve to level par.

Defending champion Justin Thomas holed a bogey putt on 18 to make the cut.

The top 70 and ties get to play the weekend and Jordan Spieth also holed a crucial putt on the last as he signed for a 72 to join Thomas on five over.

Phil Mickelson, who in 2021 became the oldest major champion at the age of 50 when he won this title, also squeezed through to the final two rounds on the cut mark.

But England’s US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, who said earlier in the week how much he preferred this kind of attritional challenge, missed the cut by one after dropping shots on his last two holes.

World number one Rahm, who won the Masters last month came in to this championship on a run of four wins in his past 11 events stretching back to August.

However, after a birdie on his second hole, the Spaniard missed numerous other opportunities to improve his score in a run of nine successive pars and he repeatedly swore as his frustration began to boil over.

But three birdies in a row on the back nine rescued his round and kept him in the hunt for a third major title.

Tough morning conditions saw Justin Rose set the clubhouse lead as one of just seven players under par for their rounds, but rain in the afternoon took some sting out of the course and led to improved scoring – especially on the back nine.

Fellow Englishman Callum Tarren, who only secured a place in the field on Friday when former champion Martin Kaymer withdrew, was one to benefit and he had four birdies and just one bogey in his 67 as he moved to two under overall.

With just nine players under par for the tournament though, Oak Hill is still providing a tough test.

Scheffler contends again; Koepka back in major form

That was especially the case for Koepka, who admitted to choking when leading the Masters last month. But the four-time major winner again showed his pedigree with five back-nine birdies helping him join Tarren at two under.

Koepka’s round of 66 matched the best of the tournament so far, recorded by first-round leader DeChambeau, who dropped back to three under alongside Justin Suh after a one-over 71.

While Canadian Conners has had some decent results at the Masters, and Norwegian Hovland has gone close in the last two majors, world number two Scheffler already has one major title in his pocket and said he finds himself “comfortable in these situations”.

“These are the positions I want to be in,” added the 2022 Masters champion, who would have held the outright lead but for a bogey on the 18th.

“I want to be near the lead. I don’t want to be in 30th place or going home. I show up to the tournaments to perform at my best.

“I’m excited to be in a good position going into the weekend. I’m going to keep my head down and keep doing what I’m doing.”

Both Hovland and Conner had just one bogey in similarly solid rounds as they underlined their threat.

And things looked a lot brighter all round for McIlroy, who holed some big putts to make up for still struggling off the tee. The four-time major champion feels he has a chance over the weekend if he can find some fairways.

“When I holed that putt at the last, I looked at the board, and I thought, I can’t believe I’m five back,” said the Northern Irishman who won this title in 2012 and 2014.

“I guess that’s a good thing because I know if I can get it in play off the tee, that’s the key to my success over the weekend.

“If I can get the ball in play off the tee, I’ll have a shot and at this point I might just tee it high and bomb it everywhere. I may as well just swing it hard and go for it.”

‘A stellar effort’

Justin Rose at the US PGA Championship
Justin Rose hardly found a fairway at Oak Hill but still made a challenge

Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, only managed to hit two fairways in the second round, and despite some incredible shots chopping and gouging out of the rough, his luck ran out with two bogeys in his closing stretch.

“This is tough,” he told Sky Sports. “I have struggled to get the ball in play off the tee so to be under par is a pretty stellar effort.

“It’s been such a quick turnaround. I don’t think any of us got more than five-and-a-half hours’ sleep.”

It was a struggle for the majority of the early starters, with world number four Patrick Cantlay’s 67 and Englishman Tyrrell Hatton’s 68 two rare under-par rounds.

Cantlay bogeyed the last to be one over for the tournament, while Hatton also dropped a shot on his last hole but after a lengthy wait, he made the cut on five over

Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott, who were up with the leaders after round one, struggled to rounds of 74 over the par-70 layout in Rochester, New York, to drop back to one and two over respectively.

A shank and brief challenge – PGA pro’s eventful round

Michael Block at the US PGA Championship
Club pro Michael Block has achieved his dream of making the cut at a major

Californian club professional Michael Block was the talk of Oak Hill as the 46-year-old qualifier briefly challenged, then hit a dreaded shank before ending an eventful round at level par.

A teaching professional who charges $125 for a golf lesson, Block had a putt to tie the lead at four under after a fast start to his round, but a huge shank on the tee of the par-three fifth – his 14th hole – resulted in a double bogey and he had to hang on as he finished level par for the championship.

“I am having a great time,” said Block who has made the cut for the first time on his fifth appearance in the championship.

“I have no pressure, I have a job and a pay cheque waiting for me at my club. I don’t have to make putts to pay for my mortgage. This is a beautiful thing I have here.

“I feel like I’ve got the game this week to compete. I feel like I could shoot even par out here every day. I feel at the end of the four days that might be a pretty good result.”

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