Utah’s Tony Finau scrambles to salvage a 74 to begin the PGA Championship

Fellow Utahn Joe Summerhays shoots and opening 81 in windy conditions

(David J. Phillip | AP) Tony Finau watches his tee shot on the eighth tee during the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament on the Ocean Course Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Kiawah Island, S.C.

The shot-by-shot tracking of Utah high school graduates Tony Finau and Joe Summerhays during Thursday’s first round of the PGA Championship included too many unpleasant destinations for their drives.

Rough. Native areas. Waste bunkers. And in a couple of cases for Summerhays, “unknown.”

Each golfer absorbed two penalty strokes and other difficulties during his afternoon tour of Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course in South Carolina, amid the ball-striking challenges in the wind. The difference was that Finau, as a PGA Tour veteran, managed to piece together a 2-over-par 74 that kept him in good position to at least make the 36-hole cut.

Summerhays, one of 20 club professionals in the field, settled for an 81 that left him no reasonable hope of matching the achievement of his father, Bruce, who played the PGA’s weekend rounds 40 years ago as a Utah club pro.

Finau birdied the Ocean Course’s first three par-5s and repeatedly scrambled to save pars — except on No. 3, where he missed a 4-foot putt. Errant driving resulted in a double bogey and two other bogeys, including one on the par-5 No. 16.

Problems with driving accuracy also bothered the West High alumnus in the Masters in April, even though he tied for 10th place. He did shoot a 66 at Augusta National Golf Club in the second round, “the only time my driver decided to show up,” he said.

Struggles with the driver (and alternative clubs) caused Finau to lose 2.3 strokes as a result of tee shots in comparison with the rest of the field Thursday, according to the PGA Tour’s data. He basically regained those strokes around the green, saving the round and keeping him inside Friday’s projected cut line of 4 over. Finau is playing the first two rounds with Corey Conners, the tournament leader with a 67.

Summerhays, who attended Wasatch High and BYU, started his round on No. 10 and was hit hard by the Ocean Course’s usual closing stretch. He played Nos. 14-18 in 5 over par, needing five swings to reach the green on No. 16, where he made a double bogey. He also double-bogeyed No. 3, following a penalty stroke. His only birdie came via a 32-foot putt on the par-3 No. 5, helping him play his last five holes in even par.

Summerhays’ tee time Friday is 5:11 a.m. MDT; Finau plays at 5:38 a.m.

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