Minnesota: The first round of the PGA golf championships in Minnesota got off to a stuttering start with lightning and heavy rain forcing a three hour delay. As many as 29 players of the field of 155 haven't finished their round but Tiger Woods chasing the American slam kept himself in contention on day one. When brisk winds finally shooed the storm clouds away from Hazeltine National Golf Club, Jim Furyk and Fred Funk emerged as the surprise early leaders on Thursday in the PGA Championship with rounds of 4-under-par 68. Enormous galleries tracked Masters and US Open champion Tiger Woods and British Open champion Ernie Els, who each managed to hit one tee shot before lightning stopped play for nearly three hours. There weren't many thrills in the sunshine, with Woods opening at 71 and Els making bogey on the final hole for a 72. "The only thing that was frustrating is I couldn't get the rhythm with my driver. To end up one under par today with these conditions, that's, I'll take that. Anything under par today is going to be a good score," said Woods. But Furyk and Funk slipped by unnoticed. They live a mile apart in Ponte Vedra Beach, and have more than a zip code in common. It has been a season to forget in golf's biggest championships for both. Furyk missed the cut in all three majors, unusual for him since he had taken the weekend off at the majors only twice in his career. For Funk it was worse. He didn't even qualify for the first three majors. "I knew I was going to get in one of them,'' he said with a smile. Funk certainly made the most of it on what turned out to be a glorious day in Minnesota. Taking only three putts over his final four holes, the former Maryland golf coach shot into a share of the lead, an unfamiliar position for him. A storm delay of nearly three hours kept 39 players from finishing the round. Greg Norman was at 2 under with three holes to play, while Retief Goosen was at the same score with four holes left. Phil Mickelson, trying to win his first major in 42 starts, had a miserable time at the turn by missing short putts to make bogey and double bogey. He left the course in darkness after a birdie and was 3 over with three to play. John Daly barely finished, which was the best thing he could say about his round. He took an 11 on the par-4 16th hole by hitting three balls in the water. "I tried on every shot,'' Daly said, and the certainly kept trying after that. He had a 33 on his second nine for a 77. Funk chipped in for birdie on No 15, holed putts of 30 and 20 feet (6 meters) on the next two holes, then saved par with about a 10-foot (3-meter) putt on the last. Furyk wasn't nearly that dramatic, but he was just as satisfied. Four of his five birdie putts were inside 10 feet (3 meters), the exception coming on No 6 when he got a good read from Jerry Kelly's putt and made birdie from 25 feet (7.5 meters). Furyk had a share of the first-round lead in the 1997 British Open and has reason to believe he can pick up his first major here. Eleven of the last 14 winners at the PGA had never won a major. "I would like to put myself in position the next couple of days, but that history probably isn't going to help me too much,'' he said. Justin Rose of England, suddenly a regular contender in majors, had a 69 and was joined by Peter Lonard of Australia. Davis Love III made double bogey on the 16th and still shot 70, along with Lee Janzen, while Vijay Singh and Minnesota native Tom Lehman joined Woods in the group at 71. From a sand-filled divot, Els came up short of the green and then chipped in from 60 feet (18 meters). He added a 10-foot (3-meter) birdie on the next hole, while Woods hit a half-flop from thick rough to 10 inches for birdie on the par-5 11th and joined Els at 2 under with an 8-foot (2.4-meter) birdie on No 12. That's as low as either of them got. Els struggled with club selection in the swirling wind. Woods struggled with his driver. Both are still very much in contention. "Woods is right there and I heard he didn't play that good,'' Funk said. Funk is one of the shortest hitters on tour, and is known best for his accuracy. His best finish is a tie for seventh, and he's only been in one other top 10 of the majors. Furyk has had a few good chances already, especially the '98 Masters and British Open when he tied for fourth. He also won the Memorial with a final-round 65 for his seventh tour victory.
Topics : Golf