Fowler seizes early PGA lead as Tiger, McIlroy grind to level par
Rickie Fowler, a top-five finisher twice in every major without a win to show for it, fired a five-under par 65 Thursday to grab a two-stroke clubhouse lead at the 100th PGA Championship.While Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy each ground to level-par 70s at Bellerive Country Club, ninth-ranked Fowler fired his lowest of 31 career rounds in the event, making six birdies against a lone bogey to seize command. "I'm definitely happy about the start and we'll see if we can keep that rolling," Fowler said. "I kept it very stress free. Just played within myself." Considered a solid contender to win a major in his 20s when he turned pro at age 20 in 2009, Fowler has one final chance to lift a major trophy before turning 30 in December. "I always have hope," Fowler said. "I know Phil (Mickelson) didn't win until his 30s. It's not something I necessarily worry about." Fowler, whose Masters runner-up effort in April matched his best major finish, had four top-five major showings in 2014, sharing second at the US and British Opens. "Keep putting ourselves in position, get in contention," Fowler said. "We'll just keep beating down that door." Fowler, who began on the back nine, found 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation. He birdied 14 but landed in a bunker at the par-3 16th and made bogey, then bounced back with a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-5 17th, a 14-footer at the first and six-footer at the third. "It was just a good tee to green solid ball striking day," Fowler said. "You pray to have that for four days." Fowler followed with a 31-foot birdie putt at the par-4 seventh hole and blasted from a bunker to eight feet to birdie the par-5 eighth. "What's maybe helping this week is not trying to overpower it," Fowler said. "Get me in the fairway and with the soft greens, I feel like we can pick apart the golf course." With half the field of 156 still on the course, a second-place pack on 67 included England's Ian Poulter, Australian Jason Day and Americans Pat Perez, Brian Gay, Stewart Cink, Austin Cook and Ollie Schniederjans. Poulter, fighting to qualify for the European Ryder Cup team, birdied three of his first six holes. "I got off to a flying start," Poulter said. "It was a good day. I feel pretty comfortable." Day, the 2015 PGA winner, birdied two of the last three holes. "I'm very happy with how things progressed out there," Day said. "It's always nice to get a round in like this, start your week knowing that you're in the right direction."