SHEBOYGAN, Wis. » The fog finally lifted over Whistling Straits and revealed a stunning vista.
Tiger Woods’ name was atop the leaderboard.
Just not for long.
At the end of opening day in the PGA Championship, he wasn’t near the names of Bubba Watson and Francesco Molinari, who each opened with a 4-under 68; or Ernie Els, Matt Kuchar and Nick Watney, who also were at 4 under when it became too dark for them to finish the first round.
Woods, who made three birdies inside 12 feet on the opening four holes, had to birdie his final hole just to break par, a 1-under 71. That used to be considered an ordinary start in a major. Considering his recent woes, this was nearly cause for celebration.
"To shoot something under par, that was the goal today," Woods said.
He joined 21 others among the 78 early starters who completed the first round, which was delayed by more than three hours because of fog. Still to be determined is whether he can back that up. It was the first time in eight rounds that Woods had broken par.
The fog delay meant none of the late starters could finish the opening round.
Els, desperate to make sure another year doesn’t end without a major, played bogey-free through 14 holes and was at 4 under, making a 7-foot par save on the 14th shortly before the horn sounded. Also at 4 under were Matt Kuchar and Nick Watney, courtesy of eagles — Kuchar on the 13th early in his round by holing from the fairway, Watney on the par-5 11th, his last hole of the day.
Phil Mickelson, closer than ever to going to No. 1 in the world, ended a wild day at 1 under. He knocked it close for a couple of birdies, and spent the rest of the time in the bunkers and rough as he scrambled to save par. He finished on a strong note with back-to-back birdies, the last one a wedge that stopped 2 feet away on the 11th.
In a summer of majors at Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, it only figures that a fog delay of just over three hours would be in Wisconsin.
"I had never gotten up at 5:30 for a 12 o’clock tee time," said Charles Howell, who shot a 69.
The group at 69 also included Ryan Moore, the only player among the early starters to reach 5 under until dropping two shots over his last three holes into the wind. Jason Day of Australia bogeyed his last hole for a 69.
With so much rain on Wednesday and in the week before the PGA, the course that looks like a links played more like a PGA Tour course with soft conditions. It was suited perfectly for Watson, one of the biggest hitters in golf.
"It makes it a little easier, I guess, when you do that," Watson said of his long game.
He had nine one-putt greens, which works at any tournament.
Molinari went about his work differently, relying on accuracy. He missed only four fairways and two greens, dropped only one shot along the way and worked his way into a share of the early lead with a birdie on the par-3 seventh, among the scariest of the par 3s that hug the shoreline.
Coming off two majors won by players who had never done it before, Molinari has reason to believe he could be next.
"Tiger is going to get back to his standards, and Phil is going to win more majors," he said. "and so you just need to play really well and try to grab the occasion when you have it."
The late starters will finish the first round this morning and immediately start the second round. For Woods, Watson, Molinari and the rest of the players in their side of the draw, they will face a late start and likely won’t finish today.
If nothing else, that means Woods will make it to the weekend.