Despite not having won a major for eight years, Rory McIlroy made a strong start at the US PGA Championship, ending the opening day with a one-shot lead.
The day closed with McIlroy scoring a five-under 65. Later starters struggled as wind conditions worsened, with world number 40, American Tom Hoge, who won his first PGA TOUR event at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am this year, and Will Zalatoris ending on four under, and England’s Matt Fitzpatrick following with a two-under-par 68.
Taking place at Southern Hills, Oklahoma, the event gave the Irish four-time major champion a chance to add a third US PGA to his roster. “Overall, it was a great day,” said McIlroy. “Great to get off to a great start at a major championship for a change. I came in here knowing my game is in good shape so it is a matter of executing the shots you know you can – I need to replicate that and not get ahead of myself.”
Also in McIlroy’s marquee group were American Tiger Woods, who scored a four-over 74, and Jordan Spieth, who finished with a two-over 72.
See also: Justin Thomas Seals PGA Championship Victory
Tiger Woods, who has won the US PGA Championship four times, started well with birdies on the fourth and fifth holes, but closed with four bogeys to finish four over, seeming to be in pain after tee shots. Nonetheless he seems to have made progress since his remarkable comeback at the Masters in April, 14 months after a career-threatening car crash which injured his legs left him unable to walk for three months.
Tiger Woods commented about his leg pain: “It has felt better before. It’s a little sore right now. Lots of treatment, lots of ice baths, and try and get the inflammation out and try and get ready for tomorrow.”
With conditions in the afternoon deteriorating, the world’s three top-ranked players, Masters winner Scottie Scheffler, US Open victor Jon Rahm and Open champion Collin Morikawa all finished over par. Despite the wind conditions, world number nine Justin Thomas birdied the last hole to finish with a three-under 67, leaving him level with Matt Kuchar and Abraham Ancer.
McIlroy’s performance faltered after a strong start, but with the 14 recent top-10 finishes and a runner-up place at last month’s Masters to boast of, he remains the favorite for the US PGA Championship. The major challenger remains Scottie Scheffler, who was unable to build on his success at the Augusta National last month, but who salvaged some fluffed drives and putts to finish at one over par.
“That’s what happens when you play late in the day,” said Scheffler. “Today was windy so the course was challenging, and I didn’t keep myself in position on the back nine and paid the price for it.” Jordan Spieth, who needs to win this event to complete a career grand slam, played a mixed round, with two birdies and four bogeys.
The event, which has a purse of $12,000,000, continues until May 22nd.