Graeme up his opening three-under 68 with a three-over 74 that left him on level par and not enough to make the -2 cut.
Graeme holed one of the longest putts of his career on Day 1 — a monster 88-footer on the short par four 17th, which left him with a three-under 68 that left him tied 18th, just three shots off the lead.
“I mean, obviously watching it on TV, heard the guys talking about it, this is a quite the show here, quite the party and quite the atmosphere,” Graeme said when explaining why he’s returned to the event. “I mean, we played early this morning, so I got to see 16 fairly benign. We’ll play it tomorrow afternoon a little later on when I’m sure there will be a few beverages starting to flow, and the atmosphere should be a lot of fun.
“But the golf course is sensational. I’m not sure I’ve seen a better-conditioned golf course than this one and it’s playing firm and fast, which kind of suits my game a little bit. The greens are fantastic and it’s been one of those weeks where I’m trying to wonder why it’s been 16 years since I’ve been here.”
The 2010 US Open champion made his first birdie of the day when he knocked in a 12-footer in the amphitheatre that is the par-three 16th, which was well below its 20,000 capacity at 10.30am.
But he was soon whipping up a storm at the driveable 348-yard 17th, where he drove into a fairway bunker, splashed out to 88 feet and holed the unlikely birdie putt – his longest on record on the PGA Tour since he made one from 75 feet in the first round of the 2014 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
“This might be the most ridiculous three I ever made in my life,” Graeme said. “I drove it in the right-hand fairway bunker, and I mean this putt is just greased lightning. It’s a marble staircase down there.
“I would have probably paid you about a thousand bucks for a four out of that right bunker after my tee shot, but three is outrageous. A lot of fun though.
“And to birdie 16 and 17, 16 my first time playing it in the kind of stadium like that was fun and, like I say, I look forward to getting back out tomorrow.”
Graeme bogeyed the 18th but then hit a 193-yard approach to five feet at the first to get back to two-under before two-putting for another birdie at the par-five third.
Ranked 358th in the world, he’s missed 26 of 41 cuts (63 per cent) since he won the Saudi International in 2020 and he’s trying to ease the pressure on his shoulders as he is exempt for winning the 2019 Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship runs out at the end of this season.
“For me it’s just day by day at the minute,” Graeme said. “I’m just really trying to layer good days on good days. And it’s been a really tough 18 months, and I’m really just trying to keep things simple, just work hard, have good days, hopefully, those will add up to being in contention, and I’ll give myself some chances to win.
“That’s really just the goal at the minute is just to try and be as patient as I can.”
“This is a quite the show here, quite the party and quite the atmosphere.”