TULSA, Oklahoma (Reuters) – Rory McIlroy has long been plagued by slow starts in the majors but put the issue behind him as he made a near flawless trip around Southern Hills to grab the early clubhouse lead at the PGA Championship on Thursday.
Since winning the last of his four majors in 2014, slow starts at golf’s biggest events have proven too difficult to overcome for McIlroy but the Northern Irishman flipped the script and appears to have rediscovered his mojo.
McIlroy mixed seven birdies with two bogeys for a five-under-par 65 that marked his lowest opening round in a major since posting the same score en route to winning the 2011 U.S. Open.
“It’s just a matter of going out there and really sticking to your game plan, executing as well as you possibly can, and just sort of staying in your own little world,” said McIlroy.
“I did that really well today. It was nice to get off to that good start and sorta keep it going.”
The Northern Irishman arrived at the year’s second major full of confidence after top-five finishes at his last two events, including runner-up at the Masters after a final-round charge.
McIlroy, who started on the back nine in a high-profile group with Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth, made his move early with four consecutive birdies starting at the par-four 12th where his approach shot settled 22 inches from the hole.
The 20-times PGA Tour winner got to six under for the round after 14 holes but gave two shots back after bogeys at the remaining par-three holes where he missed both greens.
McIlroy quickly recovered by sinking an 18-foot putt for a closing birdie.
It marked the fourth time McIlroy has shot 65 or better in the opening round of a major, which is the most by any player since the Masters began in 1934.
“This course, it lets you be pretty aggressive off the tee if you want to be,” said McIlroy. “So I hit quite a lot of drivers out there and took advantage of my length and finished that off with some nice iron play and some nice putting.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)