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KOHLER, Wisconsin (Reuters) - Luck of the draw is often a significant factor at the majors and Matt Kuchar was grateful for an early tee time as he moved into contention for the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits on Thursday.
The American world number 16 took advantage of relatively benign morning conditions under clear skies on the shores of Lake Michigan, firing a four-under-par 68 to sit just two strokes off the clubhouse lead in the opening round.
"Beautiful (early) conditions," said Kuchar, a seven-times winner on the PGA Tour whose best PGA Championship finish in six previous appearances was a tie for 10th here in 2010.
"This was definitely the time to take advantage of the golf course, probably as easy as we have seen this place play.
"It was nice. This was the earliest I've teed off in a long time but once I got here, it was great to be playing good golf. Birdied my first two holes, 10 and 11. Played good golf."
Kuchar, who set off with Frenchman Victor Dubuisson and South Africa's Charl Schwartzel in the fourth group of the day off the 10th tee, racked up six birdies and two bogeys on the undulating, heavily bunkered Straits Course.
"The greens are pristine," the 37-year-old American said after picking up four shots in his last seven holes. "We were (among) the first few people to walk on them in the morning, so they were just in great shape.
"Had a couple bogeys there on the incoming stretch of that back nine but then got it around, saw a few putts go in on my second nine. Four-under-par today is a nice way to start."
Gusts of up to 25 mph (40.2 kph) have been forecast for later on Thursday and the wind was already beginning to buffet the par-72 layout as Kuchar and his playing partners were completing their second nine.
"The wind picked up more than I thought it would on the incoming holes," said Kuchar, who is seeking his first major victory.
"Certainly it was nice to be out there at 7:15 a.m. and have very still conditions. It's a more challenging golf course at the moment."
Editing by Larry Fine