Rory McIlroy appeared to have finally gotten off to a fast start in a Major on day one as he took an early lead in the 104th US PGA Championship.
Since winning the last of his four majors at the US PGA in 2014, McIlroy has been 35-over par overall in the first round of golf’s four major tournaments, his most recent success being a one-over-par 73 at the Masters in April.
But perhaps inspired by the pairing with Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth — who is chasing the career grand slam in Tulsa — it was a different story at Southern Hills, where Woods won the 13th of his 15 majors in 2007.
McIlroy started on the back nine and made parries on the 10th and 11th before hitting an excellent two-foot approach on the 12th to set up a tap-in birdie.
The par-5 13 measures 628 yards, but McIlroy was able to reach a greenside bunker in two and pace for a yardage before potting from 25 feet on the 14th and 10 feet on the next to make it four in to follow.
Pars on the 16th, 17th and 18th put McIlroy to turn in 31 and a shot clear of American Davis Riley, with Justin Rose a shot down the group at two under.
Woods had made the ideal start with a close-range birdie on the 10th and had another shot on the 14th – after taking advantage of one of several waits off the tee to indulge in a big sandwich – before firing his first shot of the day put off the 15th after a badly unsuccessful tee shot.
Another bogey on the ninth hole, caused by a drawn approach to a bunker, sent Woods back to the same par while Spieth followed two over three bogeys within four holes.
It had taken the marquee group two hours and 40 minutes to complete their first nine holes, with the Southern Hills course layout causing several bottlenecks.
The second green, third tee, fifth green, sixth tee and seventh tee are all in close proximity to one another, while the first and tenth holes lead in different directions from the same small tee.
McIlroy missed from eight feet for a fourth-place birdie, but smashed a drive and long iron into a greenside bunker on the 665-yard fifth and paced to improve to six-under.
Since Southern Hills is a par 70, McIlroy had to complete the last four holes in two to set the lowest score of any men’s major, Branden Grace carded an eight-under par 62 at the 2017 Open at Royal Birkdale.
McIlroy’s round threatened to stall as he bogeyed the sixth and eighth bogey – both long par 3s – but he finished the ninth in style with a birdie to complete an opening 65.
“It was a great start to the tournament,” said McIlroy. “I played well when I came in here and took a lot from the last round (64) in Augusta.
“I feel like you can be aggressive on this course if you want to, so I hit a lot of riders to take advantage of my distance and hit a lot of good iron shots.
“I’ve done pretty much everything you need to do out there and I’ll need to do the same for the next three days. I can’t get beyond myself.”
Pádraig Harrington, meanwhile, finished his opening round with a +7 round of 77.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/golf/rory-mcilroy-hails-great-start-as-he-takes-early-lead-at-pga-championship-with-round-of-65-41668131.html Rory McIlroy hailed a “great start” as he took an early lead in the PGA Championship with the Round of 65