Tulsa, Okla. – Rory McIlroy looked comfortable on the Southern Hills track and rose to the occasion to dominate the PGA Championship on Thursday.
The Northern Irish sent their shots down the trees and down the driveways, setting the table for seven sparrows. He played 65 (-5) to give himself a one-hit lead at the top of the standings.
That was what McIlroy needed as he tried to finish nearly eight to eight droughts without winning a major. It was his best start since scoring 66 in the PGA Championship in Valhalla in 2014, when he won the last four majors of his career.
“I think when your game feels like this, it’s just about getting out there, sticking to your game plan, making shots as often as you can and somehow staying in your little world,” McIlroy said. I feel like this course allows you to be aggressive on tees, so I took advantage of my long rides and finished my job with my irons and my blows.”
Pebble Beach winner Will Zalatores and Tom Hogg scored a 66 while Matt Kuchar, Abraham Anser and Justin Thomas fired 67.
Tiger Woods collapsed midway and at the end of his run, completing the course in 74 strokes. It’s his worst tournament since 2015.
“I can’t carry too much weight. It all hurts, lift weight, push, walk, spin, it all hurts. It’s part of golf. If I don’t have to do it,” Woods said of his right leg, which was injured in February 2021. No problem.”
Masters champion Scottie Scheffler had to save a tie in 18th to score 71 in his first over-the-top round in two months.
Note “I couldn’t get out of it.”
McIlroy Woods was playing in the same group with Jordan Spieth, who only needs to win this tournament to complete his Grand Slam career. A series of Birds missed chances and missed hits forced Spieth to play 72.
The difference between McIlroy and Woods was evident from the open slots of the round. McIlroy had a four-game streak that started on the third hole of the day.
McIlroy has been outsmarting each of the 5 players on the course, the last of which has seen him climb to the Under-6. He committed two ghosts in three holes before concluding his tour with a birdie.
Only 26 of the 156 players who hit the field managed to get a substandard round, including only nine in the afternoon.
“I don’t think a big champ here has ever been under 10, so you know the scores won’t be lower,” Hogg said. If you get out of the fairways into the tall grass here, it’s hard to control the ball around the greens because it’s fast. You’re just trying to keep it simple.”
Another piece of Southern Hills history in seven majors: Five champions retained or shared the lead after 18 holes.
“I would have preferred to play 74 and fight to dodge the ax tomorrow,” McIlroy joked. Look, it’s a pretty good start and I’m in great shape.
Xander Schauffele was part of a group of nine 2-under golfers and Tony Finau was one of the most prominent group of 11 1-under golfers.
For his part, Canadian Mackenzie Hughes could not do better than the role of 77. His compatriot Adam Hadwin played 73 cards while Cory Connors returned 76 cards.
As for Phil Mickelson, the defending champion missed out on the tournament as he opted to extend his time away from the track after making comments about a Saudi-funded rival circuit gearing up to stage its first event next month in London.
Bresson Deschamps also shines with his absence, having pulled out the day before due to his slow-healing wrist.