PGA Championship: South Hadley’s Richy Werenski grinds through first round

  • Richy Werenski hits out of the rough on the second hole during the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament, Thursday, May 16, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. AP PHOTO/Seth Wenig

  • South Hadley native Richy Werenski talks with his caddie Steven “Pepsi” Hale on the 10th hole during the first round of the 101st PGA Championship, Thursday at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, New York. Werenski’s ball landed on a sprinkler head. He got relief from his position and saved par. STAFF PHOTO/MIKE MORAN

  • South Hadley native Richy Werenski chips on the par-3 third hole during the first round of the 101st PGA Championship, Thursday at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, New York. STAFF PHOTO/MIKE MORAN

  • Richy Werenski checks his lie in the rough on the second hole during the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament, Thursday, May 16, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y.. AP PHOTO/Seth Wenig

  • South Hadley native Richy Werenski plans for an approach shot on the par-4 16th hole during the first round of the 101st PGA Championship, Thursday at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, New York. Werenski was short of the green on his approach, but he saved par. STAFF PHOTO/MIKE MORAN

Staff Writer
Published: 5/16/2019 3:58:05 PM

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Richy Werenski anticipated a grind and he got one.

The South Hadley native battled his swing during most of the first round of the 101st PGA Championship, Thursday at Bethpage Black. He had two birdies and four bogies to go along with 12 pars for a 2-over-par 72.

Among those tied at 2 over are British Open champ Francesco Molinari and Masters champion Tiger Woods.

“Pretty crummy ball-striking day,” Werenski said. “Made some putts but missed some short ones to save par. That kind of hurt on a couple holes.”

Defending PGA champion Brooks Koepka jumped out with a 7-under 63 to take the early lead. Werenski has to make up some ground if he wants to play the weekend.

“I’ve been hitting the ball a lot better than this,” he said. “It was just one of those days. You’re not going to hit it good every day but I feel like I’m swinging it really well. Hopefully tomorrow turns it around.”

Werenski struggled to find the fairway. When he did, he was left with opportunities for birdies, albeit some from 15-20 feet. When he didn’t, he scrambled to save par.

“It was a grind. It was tough,” he said. “Tried not to play myself out of it. Figure I was hitting the ball so bad today hopefully I hit it a little better tomorrow. If you hit the fairway you can make some birdies out here.”

He made the fairway on No. 1 but was long on his 17-foot putt for birdie. He found the rough off No. 2, and was short and in the rough on his second shot. He chipped on and saved par with a 12-foot putt. Indecisiveness left him short on the par-3 third hole. The shot cost Werenski, who two-putted from 11 feet for a bogey.

“Maybe a little bit of the wrong club slash wasn’t really committed to it,” he said. “I tried to take a little off it and totally quit on it. Terrible golf swing.”

The 27-year-old came back with a birdie on the par-5 fourth. After reviewing his setup following his approach, an aggressive chip left him a 4-foot birdie putt.

“I hit a couple that started way right. They felt like alright golf swings, solid shots that just went way right from where I was looking,” Werenski said. “I was trying to figure it out. Sometimes its as easy as you’re aiming way right. As the day went on it got a little better.”

Werenski gave the birdie back on No. 5. His drive found the rough and he laid up. His third shot left him with a 25-foot par putt that he left short by 4 feet.

He followed with a string of five straight pars.

He found the rough off No. 6 and then the green-side bunker. He saved par with a sand wedge to within 4 feet. He two-putted from 44 feet on the par-4 seventh, needed two putts from 21 feet on the par-3 eighth and two from 48 feet on the par-4 ninth. His second shot found the sprinkler cover off the 10th green. He got a drop, then got up and down for par.

His drive got him in trouble on the par-4 11th. From the right rough, Werenski found the front-left trap. He chipped short to 28 feet and two-putted for bogey.

Werenski rolled in an 18-foot putt for par on No. 12 and followed that with a great chance for birdie on the 609-yard par-5 13th. His approach left him 53 yards away and his chip gave him a birdie putt that he missed from 12 feet.

A long putt finally sank on the par-3 14th as Werenski dropped one in from 33 feet to get to 1 over.

“That was nice,” Werenski said. “I missed the short put on No. 13 for birdie and I felt I gave one away there. It was nice making up for it on the next one.”

However, he gave the shot back on No. 15 when he missed a par putt from 9 feet. Werenski was slightly animated walking to the tee box on No. 17, one of the only times frustration was visible on the even-keeled West Palm Beach, Florida, resident.

“It was downhill, kind of right to left putt, slippery,” he said. “I just played a little too much break.”

Werenski closed with four straight pars. He found the rough on No. 16, chipped short and got up and down for par. He sank a 10-foot putt for par on the par-3 17th after watching Mike Lorenzo-Vera (2 under) and Justin Harding (4 over) miss similar putts. He then closed by missing an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 18.

Werenski tees off at 12:54 p.m. Friday in the second round. The low 70 scorers plus ties advance to the weekend.

“We’re going to keep doing the same thing,” he said. “I know how to play the golf course, I got a good feel for it. Hopefully, we hit it a little better and give us some more opportunities, more looks at birdies.”

Mike Moran can be reached at mmoran@gazettenet.com.




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