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Stricker just misses chance to make history PGA: Tiger's fall, Rory's wrist overshadow a run at a major record

Steve Stricker stood a mere 10 feet away from the lowest round ever in a major, a captivating moment at any other championship.

Not this one.

Not with U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, the favorite at this PGA, trying to blast a 7-iron through a tree root. He injured his wrist so badly that he thought of quitting, yet somehow managed an even-par 70 despite not being able to hang onto the club with both hands.

And not with Tiger Woods looking like a 14-time major champion for five holes, only to finish 14 shots out of the lead after stumbling through the sand and posting a 77, his second-worst score in a major.

Already a memorable year in the majors, it looks like the PGA Championship wants a piece of the action.

On a sweat-stained Thursday at Atlanta Athletic Club, Stricker became the 11th player in PGA Championship history to shoot 63. He opened with three straight birdies and kept right on going until he stood on the cusp of history without even knowing it.

Only after his birdie putt for 62 slid by the cup did his caddie, Jimmy Johnson, tell him that it was for the record in a major.

"It never really registered," Stricker said. "I was just trying to make a birdie and finish 8 under, and I really was concentrating on the putt, but never thought about the history part of it."

He never thought he could be atop the leader board, either. After three days of practice on the 7,467-yard course -- the longest par 70 ever at a major -- Stricker didn't have a good feeling about his chances. His money would have been on his Wisconsin neighbor, Jerry Kelly, and he wasn't too far off.

Kelly had a career-best 65 and was two shots behind. Completing the American foursome atop the leader board was former PGA champion Shaun Micheel at 66, and Scott Verplank with a 67, perhaps the biggest surprise of the day because Verplank has been battling a wrist injury.

The only injury to Woods was to his psyche.

He was 3 under through five holes, including a 5-wood from pine straw over a mound and under a tree that set up birdie on the par-5 12th hole. But after a 4-iron into the water on the par-3 15th, he came undone.

Woods made three double bogeys over the next 10 holes, and wound up in a dozen bunkers. One last bogey gave him his second-highest score in a major, behind the 81 he shot at Muirfield in the 2002 British Open when it was wet and windy.

"I'm not down," he said. "I'm really angry right now. There's a lot of words I could use beyond that."

Stricker led 22 players who broke par, although Atlanta Athletic Club doled out its share of punishment. No one suffered quite like Ryo Ishikawa, the 19-year-old from Japan who was coming off his best finish in America last week at Firestone, where he tied for fourth. He had a career-high 85, with six balls in the water.

Eight other players shot in the 80s, including former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover.

Luke Donald, No. 1 in the world, opened with a 70, while second-ranked Lee Westwood was at 71.

Stricker already has won twice this year and feels a major title would be the topper. As for a 63, the 25th time someone has posted that score in a major?

"I wish I would have been able to make that putt to be one better than that group of guys," he said. "But 63 is a heck of a start."