Lack of practice hardly a problem for Fox as New Zealander opens with a solid 68 at the PGA

Ryan Fox chips to the green on the 14th hole Thursday during the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Oak Hill Country Club in Pittsford, N.Y. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Ryan Fox headed to Oak Hill at 5:30 a.m. to get breakfast before getting stretched in preparation for the opening round of the PGA Championship.

Just his bad luck, Fox was already at the course when he received a text that the start was delayed by frost, pushing his tee time back nearly two hours.


But that’s the way it has gone lately for the Kiwi.

He felt sick on the weekend at the Masters, tried to play at Hilton Head and withdrew after three holes to go home. Turns out he had pneumonia, which kept him home for two weeks trying to recover.

“As soon as I got over that, our daughter was born, which was just over two weeks ago now,” Fox said. “So I had a few sleepless nights and not a lot of practice.”

It doesn’t stop there.

One day he tried to practice, Auckland, New Zealand, flooded for the third time this year. He was stuck for four hours in traffic.

“It wasn’t quite the ideal preparation for a major, but I was kind of hoping the fact I needed a break after a busy start to the year and being mentally fresh would have been important this week,” he said.

It seemed to work out OK. Fox, No. 41 in the world ranking, opened with a 68.

MIXED BAG: A little over a month after a final-round collapse cost him a shot at a green jacket at Augusta National, Brooks Koepka opened the PGA with a 2-over 72.

The two-time PGA champion’s score could have been a lot worse if not for some excellent scrambling, including pitching in from the rough to save par on the par-3 11th.

“That was the worst I’ve hit it in a long time,” Koepka said. “Scrambled really well. Missed a couple putts early but scrambled really well late. Yeah, that was the worst I’ve hit it in a really long time.”

WILD RIDE: Tony Finau’s hot streak appeared ready to come to a grinding halt when he opened with a 6-over 41 on the front nine. Finau, a two-time winner on tour this year, responded by putting together a 4-under 31 on the back to finish at 2-over 72.

Finau’s round marked just the third time in the last 30 years that a player shot plus-6 on one nine and responded by shooting minus-4 or better on the back nine, joining Ashley Hall at the 2012 British Open and Kevin Sutherland at the 2009 U.S. Open.

Xander Schauffele wasn’t far behind. He opened bogey, double-bogey, bogey before getting it together. The world’s fifth-ranked player fought his way back to finish at 2-over 72.

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