Walker sets early PGA pace with 65, Day lurks close by
By Larry Fine
SPRINGFIELD, New Jersey (Reuters) - Jimmy Walker shrugged off some recent struggles to shoot a five-under-par 65 and claim the early first-round lead in the PGA Championship at a hot, steamy Baltusrol Golf Club on Thursday.
Lurking in striking range was world number one and defending champion Jason Day who, despite not setting foot on the course until Wednesday, patiently plotted his way through the 7,328-yard layout to shoot 68.
Walker, who has missed four cuts in his last eight events including the U.S. Open and British Open, found his form at the year's last major.
The 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup player made four birdies over his first nine after starting at 10 and gained another shot with a birdie at his penultimate hole for a one-shot lead.
Argentina's Emiliano Grillo, 23, and Englishman Ross Fisher were second best among the early starters on 66. Ross birdied the two closing par-fives for a rousing finish, while Grillo was boosted by back-to-back birdies from the 14th.
Day's preparation was disrupted by a bug he caught from his children and an emergency trip to the hospital with his wife, who had a bad allergic reaction on Tuesday night.
But the Australian showed no ill effects from his quick study of Baltusrol, though his playing partners Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson, in a marquee grouping that teed off from the 10th, did not fare so well.
Twice PGA winner McIlroy struggled with his irons and his putter and shot a four-over 74.
Phil Mickelson, who won the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol, was also four-over after a bogey on his 11th hole but revived with three birdies in a five-hole stretch from his 12th to register a 71.
Tied for third, two shots off the lead after 67s, were England's Andy Sullivan and Americans Harris English and James Hahn.
Among a large group bunched at two-under 68 were Americans Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka, South Korean K.J. Choi, Sweden's David Lingmerth, Australian Scott Hend and Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela, who won last week's Canadian Open.
Finding the going harder were former champions Vijay Singh and John Daly. Playing together in a group along with 2008 winner Padraig Harrington (71), they both posted 74s.
Daly was marking the 25th anniversary of his stunning victory as an alternate at the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick.
Among the later starters was a group featuring the year's previous major champions - British Open winners Henrik Stenson of Sweden, American U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson and Masters winner Danny Willett of England.
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Ken Ferris)