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PGA Championship: Rory McIlroy sees 'glimmers of hope' in game after 'messy' and 'erratic' start

Rory McIlroy carded an opening-round 71 at Oak Hill as he looks to bounce back from his missed cut at The Masters and win a first major since 2014; watch the PGA Championship throughout the week live on Sky Sports Golf

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Rory McIlroy holed an impressive putt from off the green on the second hole at Oak Hill to save par and stay at three over during the first round of the 2023 PGA Championship

Rory McIlroy admitted his game is nowhere near where he wants it to be despite battling back from a slow start to stay in contention at the 105th PGA Championship.

McIlroy only found two fairways off the tee and experienced another frustrating putting display during a frost-delayed opening round at Oak Hill, where he mixed three birdies with four bogeys to post a one-over 71.

He came into the event off the back of a missed cut at The Masters and a disappointing week at the Wells Fargo Championship, with the four-time major champion - who admitted he has been struggling with illness in the lead-up to the event - needing to finish strongly to avoid falling further down the leaderboard.

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, reacts after missing a putt on the 10th hole during the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Oak Hill Country Club on Thursday, May 18, 2023, in Pittsford, N.Y. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Image: McIlroy carded a one-over 71 on Thursday morning in Rochester

"Just not at my best," McIlroy admitted. "I'm just struggling with my swing. Yeah, it's pretty messy out there, so just trying to make pars. I guess it was tough as well. There were a lot of crosswinds off tees, so it made it hard to hit fairways. I can definitely hit it better than that.

"I feel a bit better than if I had got off to a good start and made a couple of bogeys on the way in. I started to see a couple of better golf shots coming down the last few holes. There were a couple of glimmers of hope in there coming in.

Image: McIlroy has only posted top-25 finishes in two of his last seven worldwide starts

"I'm fighting something. I thought I got a great night's sleep last night and I looked at my Whoop (personal fitness monitor) and I was 22 per cent recovery, and my skin temperature was 3.5 degrees higher than what it's been. But I actually feel better today than I felt yesterday, so plenty of water and a bit of rest, I'll be fine."

Turning point for McIlroy?

Starting on the back nine, McIlroy holed from five feet to scramble a par at the 10th and followed two-putt pars over his next four holes by failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker at the par-three 15th.

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McIlroy's erratic driving saw him find only one fairway on his first nine holes, with the former world No 1 failing to save par from the sand at the 17th and then bogeying the par-four next after having to pitch out from a fairway bunker.

The 34-year-old missed the fairway with an iron at the second and pitched off the green with his third shot, only to hole a remarkable 35-foot putt from down the bottom of a slope to salvage an unlikely par.

Momentum appeared to be back in McIlroy's favour when he fired his tee shot at the par-three next to within two feet, setting up an easy birdie, then found the green in two at the 617-yard par-five next as he two-putted from 20 feet to pick up another shot.

The birdie run came to an abrupt halt when he made a three-putt bogey at the fifth and failed to convert a 12-foot chance at the next, although a six-foot gain on the penultimate hole helped him get back to one over.

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Paul McGinley believes McIlroy's confidence is low after The Masters and does not expect him to play well at the US PGA Championship

On how important the par at the second was, McIlroy said: "It was massive. I was just hoping to get done in two and make bogey and go to the third hole at four over

"When you walk off the green at three over and then you hit a tee shot like that, the pendulum swings or momentum goes the other way. All of a sudden, you make a couple of birdies in a row, and you feel like you're sort of right back in the tournament.

"Depending on what happens over the next three days and what I go on to do, you know, I may look back at that shot as being the sort of turning point of the week."

Watch the 105th PGA Championship throughout the week live on Sky Sports. Live coverage continues on Friday from 1pm on Sky Sports Golf.

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