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The Latest: Thomas off to hot start in PGA title defense

August 9, 2018

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Latest on the PGA Championship, golf’s final major of the year (all times local):

10 a.m.

Justin Thomas is off to a good start as he tries to defend his PGA Championship title.

Thomas, who also won last week at Firestone, has three birdies in his first six holes and was tied atop the leaderboard with Stewart Cink among the early wave at Bellerive.

Thomas has experience defending titles. He did it at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia in 2015 and ’16.

Tiger Woods was the last player to win back-to-back PGAs in 2006 and 2007, but four other winners have followed their triumph with top-10 finishes since then. Among them have been Rory McIlroy, who was eighth in 2013, and Jason Day, who finished second two years ago at Baltusrol.

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9:30 a.m.

Perhaps experience will trump youthful exuberance at the PGA Championship this week.

With so much attention on young stars such as Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, it’s been the veterans who have gotten off to hot starts at Bellerive.

Forty-two-year-old Ian Poulter led the way at 3 under, and 48-year-old U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk and 45-year-old Stewart Cink were among a group one shot back.

Another 48-year-old, Phil Mickelson, and 42-year-old Pat Perez were among a group at 1 under.

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9:15 a.m.

Tiger Woods changed his shirt, then set off trying to change his round.

After a bogey-double bogey start, Woods had already sweated through his shirt at Bellerive, so he stepped into a bathroom after the par-4 11th and put on a fresh shirt. He then found the fairway at the 12th and backed his approach shot to within inches for a kick-in birdie.

The weather is expected to be a factor Thursday. The forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-90s with high humidity, and that could mean insufferable conditions for those playing later in the day.

Ian Poulter was 3 under through his first six holes to take the early lead.

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9 a.m.

Tiger Woods has started bogey-double bogey at the PGA Championship, hitting wayward tee shots at his first two holes and dumping his approach shot at the par-4 11th in the water.

Woods found the thick zoysia rough right of the 10th to start the round, forcing him to hack back to the fairway. He left his par putt short and had to make a 10-footer just to save bogey.

His tee shot at the 11th found the rough left. But rather than play left of the green, where there was plenty of room, Woods’s approach at the flag was short and bounced into a greenside pond. After his drop, Woods pitched onto the green and two-putted for double.

Playing partner Justin Thomas opened with a birdie. Rory McIlroy was even.

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8:25 a.m.

Tiger Woods has survived his first PGA Championship test: making it to the tee.

Massive crowds greeted Woods at his first PGA since 2015, all clamoring for a glimpse of him as he walked from the practice range to the first hole at Bellerive Country Club.

The gallery in some places was more than a dozen deep.

He flared that opening tee shot into the deep rough right of the 10th fairway, forcing him to chop back to the short stop. It was an inauspicious start given the wide avenues at Bellerive.

Woods is playing in a feature group with defending champion Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy.

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6:50 a.m.

The 100th PGA Championship has begun in stifling summer heat.

Club pro Michael Block hit the opening tee shot down the middle at Bellerive Country Club. The course is playing long and soft because of rain Tuesday and temperatures in the 90s that require PGA officials to keep water on the greens.

The PGA Championship moves to the middle of May next year.

Tiger Woods, defending champion Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy are getting most of the attention from the morning side of the draw.

Block is among 20 club pros who qualified for this major. He is the first club pro in six years to qualify for the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in the same year.

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