PGA Championship: Rory McIlroy leaves it late to open birdie account
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 17/05/19 12:41am
Rory McIlroy narrowly managed to avoid ending the first day of the PGA Championship without a birdie as he fired a frustrating two-over 72.
McIlroy, playing in the tougher, later conditions at Bethpage Black, littered his card with three bogeys and missed a series of chances to repair the damage before finally getting a red number on the board at the final hole.
The two-time champion, still without a major win since lifting the Wanamaker Trophy at Valhalla in 2014, paid the price for a leaked opening drive at the first as he could not get to the green with his second and wound up with a bogey to start.
The 30-year-old managed to par the next six holes despite not being on top of his game, but he suffered another setback when he three-putted the eighth green and a four at the ninth took him to the turn in 37.
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McIlroy missed excellent opportunities to move back up the leaderboard at the 11th and 13th, but he made a bad error at 15 when he flew the green with his approach and short-sided himself, eventually doing well to get down in two from over 60 feet to limit the damage to a bogey.
He saw another chance slide wide at 16, but he finally had something to cheer at the last when he split the fairway, flicked a wedge to five feet and got the putt to drop to give him a positive to take into his early start on Friday.
First round as it happened
Relive the opening round of the 101st PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.
"I can't remember the last time I played a round of golf without a birdie," he said. "I was like, 'I'd better birdie this last hole', and thankfully I did. It was nice to finish that way.
"Hopefully that birdie on the last was the turning point, finish on a positive note and come back tomorrow and hopefully get into red figures for the tournament.
"If you can put the ball in play and give yourself chances, I felt like I gave myself enough chances to shoot something in the mid 60s. But it gives me hope that I can go out tomorrow and shoot a low one.
"There's definitely a big difference between a 75 and a 63, but around this golf course, the margins are fine. And if you miss the fairway by a yard or two, it can make the difference between hitting a shot into 10 feet and having a birdie chance or having to get up-and-down from 100 yards for par.
"But I did that well. I hit enough fairways, felt like I hit enough greens, and hit good putts, and some days they just find a way to not go in. The greens were starting to get a touch bumpy, so that was making it difficult in terms of speed and not trying to be too aggressive with your putts and leaving yourself those three and four footers all the time.
"The birdie at the last was great and if I make a few more putts and get myself into red numbers going into the weekend, I'd be pretty happy."