England's Tommy Fleetwood reacts during Thursday's opening round of the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black
Bethpage (United States) (AFP) - No English golfer has won the PGA Championship since Jim Barnes in 1919 but Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Wallace served notice Thursday they will try to get the job done.
Fleetwood fired a three-under par 67 in the opening round at Bethpage Black to stand four strokes behind defending champion Brooks Koepka with countryman Wallace on 69 and English world number two Justin Rose on 70.
It’s only 60 miles (96km) east from Bethpage to Shinnecock, where Koepka edged Fleetwood by one stroke for last year’s US Open crown after the Englishman fired a closing-round 63.
“It’s only round one,” Fleetwood said. “Brooks does a very good job at majors. I think we all know that. I sure wouldn’t be surprised if he was still there on Sunday.
“When you get to majors, there’s definitely certain names and certain people that you’ve got to beat. But that’s the game, and that’s what we’re here for.
“I feel like I get into contention and hopefully it’ll be a matter of time.”
Fleetwood, ranked 16th, was surprised Bethpage offered him up six birdies although he noted it inflicted three bogeys upon him as well.
“It’s a little more forgiving than the practice days have been. It felt like there were a few chances,” he said. “But overall still a brutal golf course and as soon as you’re out of position you’re going to struggle.”
Fleetwood opened with a bogey at the 10th but answered with birdie putts from 11 and five feet at 15 and 16, then made a 15-footer for birdie at one and a pair of three-footers from birdies at the par-3 third and par-5 fourth.
He stumbled back with bogeys at five and eight but closed his day with a four-foot birdie putt.
- Wallace felt 59 briefly -
England's Matt Wallace tees off on the second hole in Thursday's opening round of the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black
Wallace birdied four of the first six holes, two of the birdies coming from 17 feet. But he ran off three bogeys in a row starting at eight before he holed a 20-footer for birdie at 12 only to surrender another bogey at 15.
“Going to shoot 59 in the first four holes, I felt like. I was playing great and really enjoyed being out there,” Wallace said.
“Then the middle spell came, it was unexpected where I hit three bad shots, but the bogeys are going to come out there when you’re not absolutely perfect.”
Wallace says that he has developed a comfort zone with majors now that he is in his sixth, although his only made cut was a share of 19th in last year’s PGA.
“I feel like I compete and play. And I’ve just got to do my own thing and not get in my own way and stay patient,” he said.
Wallace seeks a bit of redemption for banging his putter on the 18th green in frustration at last weekend’s British Masters after two frustrating missed putts cost him victory.
“Hopefully I show everyone out there that that isn’t me, what I did on 18 last week – I do apologize for that – and go from there,” he said.