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Scott, Furyk share the lead at PGA Championship

PITTSFORD, N.Y. — With every major, Adam Scott is making a convincing case that he isn't satisfied with just a green jacket.

Scott ran off five straight birdies early in his round at soft and vulnerable Oak Hill, and finished with a 15-foot par for a 5-under 65 that gave him a share of the lead Thursday with Jim Furyk in the PGA Championship.

Scott finally became a major champion at Augusta National in April when he won a playoff at the Masters. Just three weeks ago, he had the lead on the back nine at Muirfield in the British Open until he made four bogeys to fall back. In the last major of the year, Scott at times looked unstoppable.

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His five straight birdies quickly put him atop the leaderboard with Furyk, and after a 71-minute delay when storms moved into the area, Scott added a sixth birdie on the par-3 15th to reach 6 under. He was on pace to tie the major championship record at Oak Hill until a three-putt bogey on the 16th.

"Just got on a bit of a roll and hit a few shots close," Scott said. "I didn't have too much putting to do. You've got to take advantage when it happens, because it doesn't happen too much in the majors. Nothing to complain about in 65."

David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., an alternate until a week ago, had a 66 in the morning. Less than a month after losing in a playoff at the John Deere Classic for his best finish on the PGA Tour, Hearn was preaching patience, a trait that has served the 34-year-old well in the bigger picture.

"My career has always had a certain progression, and I've always found a way to get competitive at the next level that I've been to," he said. "For me right now, it's just a matter of trying to continue that on, and as I've been on the PGA Tour for a few years now, I've gotten better at playing well in the bigger events."

Hearn bogeyed the first and last holes Thursday but otherwise successfully attacked the course with his driver, taking advantage of softer greens in the morning after overnight rain.

Also at 66 was Lee Westwood, who had his best score ever in the PGA and offered evidence that there was no hangover from losing a 54-hole lead in the British Open last month.

Graham DeLaet from Weyburn, Sask., the only other Canadian in the field, fought back with five birdies over his final nine holes to post an even par 70.

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There were hardly any complaints on Oak Hill, a course that has yielded only 10 72-hole scores under par in five previous majors. It's only Thursday, and the players felt as if they got off easy. Rain overnight and humid conditions kept the course soft, and birdies were dropping at an alarming pace.

Except for Tiger Woods.

The world's No. 1 player made only two birdies despite playing in the still of the morning, and he watched his round fall apart with a bogey on par-5 fourth and a double bogey on his final hole when his flop shot out of a deep rough floated into a bunker. Woods had a 71, not a bad start at Oak Hill, except on this day.

There were 35 rounds under par, compared with only a dozen rounds in the 60s when the PGA Championship was here 10 years ago.

"The round realistically could have been under par easily," Woods said.

Furyk, who won his lone major at the U.S. Open in 2003 at Olympia Fields, has gone nearly three years since his last win at the Tour Championship to capture the FedEx Cup and win PGA Tour player of the year. Still fresh are the four close calls from a year ago, including the U.S. Open.

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He was as steady as Scott, rarely putting himself in trouble until the end of the round. Furyk missed the fairway to the right and had to pitch out because of thick rough and trees blocking his way to the green. That led to his only bogey, but still his lowest first-round score in 19 appearances at the PGA Championship.

"Usually disappointed with ending the day on a bogey," Furyk said. "But you know, 65, PGA, is not so bad."

There were no record scores at Oak Hill despite the soft conditions, just a lot of low rounds.

"If you don't hit it in the fairways, then you won't score well," Westwood said. "These guys are good. There are a lot of good players playing in the tournament. Somebody is going to hit it straight, and somebody is going to shoot a good score."

Even Rory McIlroy got in on the act. The defending champion, at the end of a major season that has been a major disappointment, came out firing with three birdies on the opening four holes and made the turn in 32 until back-to-back bogeys. He wound up with a 69.

A resurgent Paul Casey was in the group at 67, while U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, British Open runner-up Henrik Stenson and the ageless Miguel Angel Jimenez were among 11 players at 68.

British Open champion Phil Mickelson wound up with the same score as Woods, only they arrived at 71 on vastly different roads. Woods had only two birdies. Mickelson shot 71 despite two double bogeys. On the par-5 fourth hole, he hooked his tee shot out-of-bounds and nearly lost the next tee shot in the same place. And on the closing hole, Mickelson looked as if he was back at Winged Foot - wild left off the tees, a reckless attempt into the trees and another double bogey.

He headed straight to the practice range, even summoning coach Butch Harmon down from the Sky Sports television booth.

Scott hasn't won since the Masters, though he has shown full control of his swing. He looks at these next 10 years as a chance to win more majors and establish himself as a major force in his generation.

"I put a lot into my game the last two years with a focus on the big tournaments," Scott said. "Everyone around me has had the same focus, as well. We come here to do business."


BIRDIE MEMORY: Matt Kuchar knows how it feels to make clutch birdies at Oak Hill.

And to be outdone by another player.

Fifteen years ago, he lost a classic match-play duel to then-teen sensation Sergio Garcia in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur on the course that's hosting this week's PGA Championship.

Garcia won 2 and 1 that day in 1998, when Kuchar was the defending champion. There were seven hole-winning birdies in the match.

"Certainly I talked about it in practice rounds, the match we had," Kuchar said. "I have a lot of fans out here that remember the '98 Amateur, so got a lot of people cheering me on and rooting for me."

Starting his first round on the 10th tee, he was even through eight holes Thursday before making a long birdie putt. That started a run of three birdies in six holes as he seeks his first major title. Kuchar shot a bogey-free 67 to finish at 3 under, one of six players tied for fifth, two strokes behind leaders Adam Scott and Jim Furyk.

"I made eight pars in a row and looked like it was going to be nine pars in a row, and that putt snuck in and it was nice to finally get one," the 35-year-old Kuchar said. "Was able to hit a close approach shot on 2 and was able to seemingly get things going kind of quickly."

Garcia, meanwhile, shot a 69.


CASEY'S BACK: Paul Casey used to be a regular at major championships, sometimes even high on the leaderboard.

Now, the English player just appreciates the chance to play.

Casey reached as high as No. 3 in the world just four years ago until a series of injuries. He went through most of 2011 with a right foot problem, which made it painful to shift his weight during the swing. Just as he was regaining his strength, he broke his collarbone in a snowboard accident. Casey tried to return too early, but his game got worse and his world ranking plunged.

This was the second straight year he qualified for only two majors, and if not for his win at the Irish Open, he likely would have missed the PGA Championship.

"Without sounding sort of cocky, I feel like ... I enjoy it out here. I belong out here; I love it out here," Casey said after opening with a 67. "Having missed so many, I'm very appreciative being back on the big stage. It's a classic tale of you don't realize how much you're missing something until it's gone."

Casey didn't show up at Oak Hill in perfect health. He was so sick last week at Firestone that he got in only one practice round at Oak Hill on Wednesday.

"Maybe it was the best thing I could have done was to save energy for today, and I did feel fresh," he said.


FRASER'S FLIP: Australia's Marcus Fraser was a combined 23 over for the U.S. Open and British Open this year. He appeared headed for more of the same when he opened the first round of the PGA Championship with two bogeys.

Then Fraser didn't make another bogey the rest of the way. Five birdies over an 11-hole stretch gave him a 67.

"A bogey, bogey start was pretty standard for the way things are going the last few months," he said. "Went out there and just gave it everything I got at the time. Been struggling a bit, and everything sort of came together."


ONE HIT WONDER: Shaun Micheel is golf's ultimate one-hit wonder.

A decade ago the American was number one with a bullet, shooting to the top of the PGA Championship leaderboard to become one of golf's most unlikely major winners.

That year he arrived at stately Oak Hill Country Club a virtual unknown and left a chart-topper with many critics predicting a string of hits to follow.

Now 44, Micheel returned to the scene of his greatest triumph this week a golden oldie with fans still singing the praises of what remains his one and only PGA Tour win.

"I know people want me to do well, and maybe they don't expect me to do well, but I made a lot of fans up here in Rochester," Micheel told Reuters. "I take a lot of pride in what happened 10 years ago.

"There were some great memories out there."

Unfortunately for Micheel no new ones were made on Thursday as the 2003 champion scuffed his way to a six-over 76.

"I didn't have a great round, if I could have made two or three more birdies out there I would have been happy with three-over but it just wasn't meant to be.

It took Micheel 164 tournaments to notch his first win and in the 10 years and 215 starts since it continues to be his only success.

In four PGA Tour events this year Micheel has yet to make the cut, record a round under 70 or earn any prize money.

"Had you told me that when I hoisted that trophy on Sunday night ... if somebody had whispered in my ear that you're going to become a non-exempt player on the Tour and you're going to be a non-exempt player on the Tour, I would have told you you were crazy, or thought I was dead or retired," said Micheel.


ASIAN FLAVOUR: He is known as Asia's version of John Daly but little-known Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand made a name for himself by storming into contention at the PGA Championship on Thursday.

The 24-year-old's hefty physique and big-hitting, go-for-broke style of play have drawn comparisons to that of Daly and he lived up to the billing, finishing his opening round three shots ahead of world number one Tiger Woods.

Aphibarnrat, who changed his name for good luck and gave up car racing three years ago to appease his worried mother, showed no nerves while playing in only his second major, where he hopes to improve on his missed cut at last month's British Open.

"It was great golf for me and a good start for my second major," Aphibarnrat said after carding a two-under-par 68 at sunny Oak Hill Country Club.

"I was doing good in the (British) Open but struggled in the second round. I was a bit nervous, but I have learned from the experience of that major and will just try to work it out on the game tomorrow."

Aphibarnrat, who started golfing when he was eight and is one of the most exciting young players to emerge from Thailand, welcomes the comparisons to Daly, who won the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Indiana.

"I played with him a couple of times and I am really proud with that (comparison)," said Aphibarnrat. "He is one of the PGA Championship winners as well and it's my pleasure if I can hear comparisons."

Aphibarnrat, known previously as Anujit Hirunratanakorn, changed his name about seven years ago, a ploy in Thailand which he said is seen by many as a viable way to change one's luck.

He may need a lot of luck to emulate Daly's unlikely PGA Championship victory at Crooked Stick, where the burly American triumphed by three strokes after being the ninth alternate in the build-up to the tournament.


Files from Reuters were used in this report

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