(Reuters) - Paul Casey used brain over brawn while Tommy Fleetwood felt buoyed by “beating” the brutal Quail Hollow layout to lead the English contingent early in Thursday’s opening round of the PGA Championship.
Casey carded a two-under-par 69, while Fleetwood registered a one-under 70 to plant themselves in the chase for the last major of the year.
”It was not my best stuff today,“ Casey told reporters. ”I struggled with the ball striking. The first hole was an example of that, hooking it into the trees. It was a struggle.
”But I had a good attitude. I tried my hardest to manage the strategy, keep the ball below the hole because I didn’t quite have the control. That’s why you see the two-under. It was a very good score, considering.
“I think it highlights my confidence in good golf craft, good management. Understanding of my own game and understanding of what I need to do.”
Fleetwood, whose previous opening round in a major was a six-over 76 at the British Open at Royal Birkdale - where he used to sneak in as a boy to play - took a far more positive first step at long Quail Hollow with its firm, fast greens.
”The course is brutal, really. It’s a really tough test,“ the 26-year-old said. ”Anything par or beating the course is a great score. I‘m just really happy to be off the course at one-under.
“It was great to beat the golf course today. If you can do that every day I can’t see (myself) being that far away.”
Fleetwood went to Royal Birkdale as the local favourite after a win in the French Open. He was given an unforgettable reception but suffered through a frustrating opening round before battling back to finish tied for 27th at one-over.
”I didn’t really feel pressure at Birkdale. I just thought it was a new experience being talked about as potentially winning a major, one of the favourites for one of the biggest tournaments in the world,“ he said. ”I had a massive following which is great.
“No matter how I did, (it) was an amazing experience.”
Casey has been in good form, entering the PGA Championship off the back of ties for fifth at the WGC-Bridgestone, 11th at the British Open and fifth at the Travelers Championship.
But Casey, who has not won a title since the European Tour’s KLM Open in 2014, wants more than that.
“Consistent is great, but winning is what I’m trying to do,” he said.
Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Ken Ferris