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  THE CENTENNIAL PGA CHAMPIONSHIP from the Bellerive Country Club in Town and Country Missouri. Round 1 is complete, Rickie Fowler and Gary Woodland are leading.

(REPORTING FROM BELLERIVE)… It’s day 1 of the centennial PGA Championship and Rickie Fowler got off to the hot start with a 5 under par 65. The long hitting Gary Woodland has matched that score and then added one more birdie in the afternoon, with Zach Johnson, Jason Day, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson lurking at 3 under par three shots behind.

It’s easy to tell that big time golf has not been in St. Louis for years, because the galleries for this celebration of the sport have been massive during Round 1. Of course it’s a major, but the PGA of America did a great job of getting the entire city of St. Louis involved from Day 1, and it has showed. Members of the St. Louis Cardinals like Ozzie Smith, and St Louis Blues like Bernie Federko have been involved as ambassadors working the city for years to drum up sales of tickets and hospitality.

Fowler the Oklahoma State alum, has long been a St. Louis Cardinal fan and that has made him the choice of the people this week. Jordan Spieth (71 +1) looking for the career Grand Slam and defending champion Justin Thomas (69 -1) the son a PGA professional are favorite numbers 2&3 this week. For Fowler it’s like having a home game this week at Bellerive.

Justin Thomas tee’s off the 17th hole at Bellerive Country Club

The golf course which has been a project this summer for the superintendent and his crew, seems to be in pretty good shape. High heat mixed with the some big rains, have created challenges, and forced the PGA not to cut the greens to tournament speed until last night. The collars of the greens that were Zoysia grass, that were replaced by Bermuda grass around July 5th, have received compliments from the players. The club didn’t allow play the last two months of the summer when the temperatures reached 90 degrees or more. There was temporary greens put in, that were used for events like the member guest. In fact the PGA of America paid the club members dues for July and August.

With very large galleries every day this week, and the merchandise tent packed to side-to-side and front to back with check lines running as long as 25 minutes at times, the PGA should do quite well on the money side. Gallery sizes were estimated to be between 35,000 and 40,000 patrons for Thursday’s opening round. While the practice Rounds for the first three days drew large galleries as well.

The interesting story that has appeared online is that hackers broke into the PGA’s network servers, and have locked them out of certain area’s of information needed for the championship. They are demanding a ransom to unlock the servers, no word on how that is working out so far.

The course record at Bellerive that is playing at a par of 70 and yardage of 7,335 is a 62 by Jim Furyk in the 2008 BMW Championship. Woodland had a chance for 63, but his birdie putt from 20 feet on the 18th green came up just short of the hole.

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About Rory Spears

Rory spent over 8 years growing up working at Rob Roy Golf Club in Prospect Hts.IL, then two years at Chevy Chase in Wheeling. He has covered golf in Chicago since 1986. Rory was one of the initial members of WSCR all-sports radio Chicago and covered golf there for 5 seasons, before moving on to work for ESPN/Sportsticker and ESPN Radio. In addition to hosting Golfers on Golf Radio on WNDZ Am 750 Chicago, he writes for both Chicagoland Golf and the Chicago District (CDGA) Magazine. Rory has played over 460 courses in 37 states, and rates golf courses. He does golf course management and communications consulting, in the golf industry.