McIlroy in major mix despite ‘scrappy’ start as Tiger struggles

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McIlroy in major mix despite ‘scrappy’ start as Tiger struggles

Rory McIlroy admitted he rode his luck during a strong start to his bid for an elusive fifth major title at the PGA Championship, as Tiger Woods was left to rue a frustrating finish to his round.

The world No 2, winner of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and Wells Fargo Championship in his last two starts, continued his upturn in form by mixing six birdies with a lone bogey at Valhalla Golf Club.

McIlroy – whose last major win came at this event and venue in 2014 – struggled off the tee but registered the ninth opening major round of 66 or lower in his career, keeping him within four strokes of early pacesetter Xander Schauffele.

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McIlroy hit the flag from the rough from 165 yards out to set up an unlikely birdie during his opening round at Valhalla

“I rode my luck a little bit,” McIlroy told Sky Sports. “I hope I can drive it like Rory in 2014 over the next few days as I didn’t drive it very well today. My fairway woods were okay. My scrambling and iron play is coming together so if I can do all that and hit fairways I am feeling pretty good.”

He then told reporters: “I sort of felt like it was pretty scrappy for the most part. I don’t really feel like I left many out there and I thought I got a lot out of my game today.

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McIlroy was in a positive mood after carding an impressive five-under opening round at the PGA Championship

“Had some good up-and-downs, the chip-in on six. I had a little bit of a scrappy part around the turn there, but not really happy with how I played but at least happy with the score.”

McIlroy continues to impress at Valhalla

Beginning on the back nine, McIlroy took advantage of the par-five 10th and added another birdie at the 13th, then responded to a bogey at the 17th with a sensational par-save after finding water off the tee at the par-five next.

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McIlroy made a dream start to the PGA Championship with a birdie at the par-five 10th

“When I got up there, the two ball-spotters or marshals said they didn’t really see it [ball in the water] or couldn’t really hear it,” McIlroy explained. “I went over to the other side just to check, but was pretty sure it was in the water.

“Dropped and took my medicine, then made a great up-and-down from about 120 yards to make par, which was important after making bogey on 17. That kept any momentum that I had going into the next nine.”

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McIlroy found the water off the 18th tee but kept his composure to deliver a dramatic par

McIlroy hit the flag with his approach into the par-four first, setting up a third birdie of the round, then added three more in a row from the fifth – including a chip-in at the sixth – to stay in touch with Schauffele at the top of the leaderboard.

“That ball on one could have hit the flagstick and went anywhere,” McIlroy admitted. “I could have made bogey from that. Potentially being one over through 10, I’m two under. So it’s a three-shot difference – it’s a big swing.”

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McIlroy delighted the Valhalla crowd with a brilliant chip-in birdie from off the sixth green

McIlroy refused to talk about his private life in his pre-tournament press conference, which came the day after it emerged he had filed for divorce from his wife, Erica, with the world No 2 quick to shut down any similar questions after his opening round.

When asked about whether it was nice to be able to focus on golf this week, McIlroy said: “It’s always nice to be inside the ropes.” A follow-up question was then greeted with: “Happy to be here.”

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Woods slips back after costly finish

Woods – who won the PGA Championship at this venue in 2000 as part of the ‘Tiger Slam’ made a solid start to the week and was under par with two holes to play, only to post a bogey-bogey finish to card a one-over 72 and fall 10 strokes behind Schauffele.

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A look back at the highs and lows of Tiger Woods’ opening round at the PGA Championship

“I struggled with the speed of the greens today,” Woods told Sky Sports. “It was a grind. I should have been under par for the day but I am over par and we have a long way to go.

“It is a big-boy golf course. It has gotten longer or maybe I have just got shorter!”

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Woods described his opening round at the PGA Championship as a ‘grind’, admitting he has ‘a long way to go’

Woods is competing for the first time since making a record-breaking 24th consecutive cut at The Masters last month, where he carded rounds of 82 and 77 to finish last of those who made it through to the weekend.

“I am getting stronger for sure,” Woods added. “It’s just that I don’t play a whole lot of competitive rounds. Each day is a little bit different. Some days, it’s better than others. It’s just the way it is. My body is just that way. Some days, it feels great, and others a bit of a struggle.”

Who will win the PGA Championship? Watch throughout the week live on Sky Sports! Live coverage continues on Friday from 1pm on Sky Sports Golf. Stream the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, majors and more with NOW.

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