Rory McIlroy bounces back from shaky start to get US PGA title bid back on track
Rory McIlroy bounced back from a shaky start as he got his bid for a second US PGA Championship victory at Kiawah Island under way.
McIlroy, who won by eight shots on the Ocean Course in South Carolina in 2012, was among the early starters on Thursday and had been installed as the pre-tournament favourite following his recent victory at Quail Hollow.
However, the 32-year-old began his campaign for a first major title since 2014 by carving his drive on the 10th, his opening hole, into the water.
After taking a penalty drop McIlroy hit his third shot into a sandy waste area behind the green, but despite appearing to catch his fourth shot a little thin, got up and down to salvage an opening bogey.
With the par-five 11th playing downwind, McIlroy needed only a medium iron for his approach shot and after lipping out for an eagle from 17 feet, tapped in for a welcome birdie.
Another birdie on the 12th took McIlroy into red figures and two shots off the early pace being set by former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and American Cameron Tringale.
England’s Paul Casey, who partnered Justin Rose to second place in the World Cup at Kiawah in 2003, was part of the group on two under which also contained US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau.
At the other end of the leaderboard, former Masters champion Adam Scott was three over par after starting his round with a triple-bogey seven on the 10th, with 2010 champion Martin Kaymer just a shot better off.
Playing alongside McIlroy, two-time winner Brooks Koepka had started with a double bogey on the 10th after failing to get out of a sandy waste area at the first attempt, but repaired some of the damage with a birdie on the next.
Before play had got under way at 7am local time, former Open champion Francesco Molinari had been forced to withdraw from the event with a back injury in another blow to his chances of making Europe’s Ryder Cup team for September’s contest at Whistling Straits.
The Italian became the first European player to compile a perfect 5-0 record in Paris in 2018, but has slipped to 144th in the world and is currently 42nd in the qualifying race.
“Unfortunately I had to withdraw this morning during my warm-up for an issue to my lower back,” the 38-year-old wrote on Twitter.
“I hope to get better quickly and be able to go back playing as soon as possible. Thanks everyone for the support.”
Tyrell Hatton shares slow play fears as US PGA begins at Southern Hills
This week’s course layout in Tulsa looks set to exacerbate the issue.
‘Recharged’ Shane Lowry excited for week ahead at US PGA Championship
Lowry has finished no worse than 35th in his nine starts this season.
Jordan Spieth relishing playing alongside Tiger Woods in career grand slam bid
Spieth has had five attempts to complete the grand slam since adding the 2017 Open title to the Masters and US Open he won in 2015.
‘He has his opinion, I have mine’ – Tiger Woods on Phil Mickelson controversy
Woods said Mickelson’s comments about the PGA Tour have been “polarising”.
Rory McIlroy hoping relaxed approach pays dividends at US PGA Championship
McIlroy did his research via videos posted online before travelling to Oklahoma on Monday.
Tiger Woods believes he can scale another mountain and win US PGA Championship
The 46-year-old finished 47th in the year’s first major, his first top-level event since suffering severe leg injuries.
Rory McIlroy was pretty sure Saudi-backed breakaway would not happen
The Northern Irishman is waiting to see how it plays out.
Graeme Storm recalls ‘surreal’ US PGA adventure after battle with Rory McIlroy
His famous victory over McIlroy came on the third extra hole in the 2017 South African Open in Johannesburg
Lee Kyoung-Hoon shoots his lowest round on the tour to retain Texas title
Dallas-born Jordan Spieth went close with a chip for eagle on the 18th which would have forced a play-off.
Sam Horsfield ‘so happy’ after winning Soudal Open to secure another title
Horsfield overcame overnight leader Ryan Fox in a thrilling final-round battle.