Golf-McIlroy grabs super group spotlight and clubhouse lead at PGA Championship
Looking to end an eight-year major drought, McIlroy arrived in Tulsa in superb form having recorded top-five finishes at his last two events, including runner-up at the Masters. The Northern Irishman carried that momentum to Southern Hills, carding seven birdies offset by a pair bogeys for a one- shot clubhouse lead over Americans Will Zalatoris and Tom Hoge.
Red-hot Rory McIlroy grabbed the spotlight from his super group playing partners Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth on Thursday by powering into the early first-round clubhouse lead at the PGA Championship with a five-under 65 at steamy Southern Hills. Looking to end an eight-year major drought, McIlroy arrived in Tulsa in superb form having recorded top-five finishes at his last two events, including runner-up at the Masters.
The Northern Irishman carried that momentum to Southern Hills, carding seven birdies offset by a pair bogeys for a one- shot clubhouse lead over Americans Will Zalatoris and Tom Hoge. "I've been playing well coming in here," said McIlroy, twice winner of the PGA Championship. "I've been carrying some good form.
"I think when your game is feeling like that, 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." McIlroy's first-round struggles at majors are well documented having made a habit of digging himself into early holes.
But this major it will be Woods needing to rebound after slumping to a four-over 74. Woods, back in action for the first time since his sensational return to competition at April's Masters, 14 months after a car crash nearly claimed his right leg, wasted no time exciting the crowd with a birdie on his opening hole.
Playing the back nine first, the 15-times major winner turned up the buzz with a second birdie at the 14th but it was all downhill from there as the former world number one piled up seven bogeys including two to end his day. The pained expression on Woods's face as he walked off the course was in stark contrast to the joyful look he had five weeks earlier at Augusta National when the 46-year-old stunned the golf world by firing an opening one-under-par 71 on his return to competition.
"I got off to a great start and didn't keep it going," said Woods. "I really didn't give myself any looks for birdie. "I was struggling trying to get the ball on the green, and I missed quite a few iron shots both ways. It was a frustrating day."
It was also a day of frustration for Spieth as his bid to complete the career Grand Slam of golf's four majors got off to an unimpressive two-over 72 start. The featured group of McIlroy, Woods and Spieth, who own a combined 22 major titles, was like a giant magnet pulling in the early spectators who lined almost every hole from tee to green.
With the afternoon wave hitting the course, however, the spotlight will shift to another high-profile group featuring world number one and Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm and British Open winner Collin Morikawa.
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