For openers, Pettersson is off to a good start 

click to enlarge Carl Pettersson of Sweden tees off on the third hole during the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at The Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, South Carolina. - MATHIEU BELANGER/REUTERS
  • MATHIEU BELANGER/Reuters
  • Carl Pettersson of Sweden tees off on the third hole during the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at The Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

Swede Carl Pettersson flawlessly put himself in position to improve a mediocre record in the majors, spearheading a glut of low scoring to surge into a one-shot lead in the PGA Championship opening round on Thursday.

The 34-year-old, who became a U.S. citizen in January, fired a sizzling 6-under-par 66 in relatively calm, sunny conditions at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort to take control of the season’s final major.

Former U.S. Open winner Rory McIlroy, long-hitting Gary Woodland, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Alex Noren charged into contention with 67s, while four-time champion Tiger Woods was happy after opening with six birdies in a round of 69.

Defending champion Keegan Bradley, 1991 winner John Daly and Joost Luiten, who briefly led at 8-under before bogeying his last four holes, were among a group of eight players who carded 68s at Kiawah, where ocean breezes strengthened later in the day.

Forty-four players broke par on the longest layout to stage a major championship, making the most of conditions softened by heavy rain earlier in the week. The average score was 73.42.

“There really wasn’t much wind on the front nine, so I knew I had to keep going low because I figured the wind would get up,” Pettersson said after a nerveless six-birdie display.

McIlroy, who won last year’s U.S. Open by a staggering eight shots, sank a 12-footer to birdie his opening hole, the 10th, and picked up further shots at the 14th, 16th, second and sixth to rocket into contention.

Most eyes, though, were on Woods who teed off at the 10th in pursuit of his 15th major title, but his first since the 2008 U.S. Open.

“I’m pleased,” Woods said. “I played well today and anything in the 60s is going to be a good start in a major championship. I’m right there.”

Leaderboard

Carl Pettersson 32-34—66
G. Fernandez-Castano 34-33—67
Rory McIlroy 34-33—67
Alexander Noren 33-34—67
Gary Woodland 34-33—67
Seven players tied at 68

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