If the adage about a door breaking down the longer you knock at it is true, Lee Westwood will end his major drought.
The 95th US PGA Championship marks the Englishman's 63rd major, a record number for a current professional without victory. It is the longest barren streak ever for a European player.
At Oak Hill Westwood is once again prominent. He opened with a 66, four under par, and proved that he has the game to compete with the best in the world. This was his lowest 18-hole score in the US PGA Championship.
What Westwood has hitherto failed to do is convert promise such as this into tangible reward. Could this, finally, be his week? "I hit the ball really well and took a lot of chances," he said, before denying he feels on-course pressure. "I just go out there and try my best, work on my weaknesses and play to my strengths. I am lucky enough to play golf every day, so very rarely do I get stressed."
This was the day in which Rory McIlroy threatened finally to walk the walk, too. The Northern Irishman has consistently said his game is close to returning to something approaching its best. His problem is that those have increasingly seemed like empty words.
Trouble on the greens prevented him from scoring better than the 69 which probably under-represented how well he had played. There were sufficient glimpses of better things, however, from the world No3 to suggest that he has positively turned a corner. McIlroy had been three under at one stage.
Jim Furyk was the early leader with a 65, five under, later joined by Adam Scott, and David Hearn (66), Miguel Angel Jiménez (68), Jason Day (67), Justin Rose (68) and Martin Kaymer (68) were others who made notable impressions during their first 18 holes. The leaderboard is already distinctly strong and full of promise.
The afternoon starters, Westwood and McIlroy among them, were disrupted by a 70-minute storm delay. That, added to the one which had hit Rochester in the early hours of Thursday, significantly softened the East Course and the more receptive greens made scoring easier for most.
Earlier a troublesome finish for Tiger Woods saw him sign for a 71, one over. He was two under with six holes to play and had missed a glorious chance to go to three under at the 2nd, his 11th, before wayward iron play caught up with him.
Woods found only nine greens in regulation and double-bogeyed his last hole. He had also been put on the clock for slow play between the 1st and 4th. "We have to be conscious of it," said Woods of his warning. "But we play just about every week like that. So that's nothing unusual. We have a lot of people following us and a lot of cameras going off and movement inside the galleries. We're accustomed to it. It happens.
"I feel like I played well today and made some nice putts. And the key is I left it in all the good spots, too."
There was a more positive experience for Paul Casey. The Englishman's return from golf's wilderness – where he had been largely on account of a dislocated shoulder after a snowboarding accident in early 2012 – was highlighted by his victory at the Irish Open in June. He fired a 67 here, made all the more impressive by the fact that he dropped a shot on his first hole, the 10th.
"I made some good par-saves on my front nine for the day and without them I wouldn't have had the opportunity to break par," Casey said. "I got lucky on a couple of holes; I holed a bomb on five and another one on seven, which really brightened up the scorecard. But I feel good about my game – there is room for improvement but I am off and running."
Casey will lack nothing in inspiration having sat out the Open this year for the first time since 2001 after failing to progress through qualifying for Muirfield. "I have had lots of extra determination and lots of sitting on the sofa throughout the last year and a half," he added. "It has given me just other reasons to get out there on the practice ground and work hard.
"It was a joy to watch what happened at Muirfield but things like Phil Mickelson's victory there and what Justin Rose did at the US Open are good fuel for the fire, to motivate me.
"When I qualified for the US Open this year I was appreciative of that week, being there. I was still really focused but occasionally I had moments looking around and taking things in. That's something I haven't done in the past. I am going make sure I do that in the future; take a look around, hopefully play great golf but enjoy the days and enjoy the crowds."
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