PGA Championship: McIlroy 'rode his luck' as he joins Scheffler and Koepka in chasing pack

By Sports Desk May 17, 2024

Rory McIlroy felt relieved to have salvaged a five-under 66 from a "scrappy" opening round at the PGA Championship as he and a host of other big names chase Xander Schauffele in Kentucky.

Schauffele leads at Valhalla Golf Club after carding a historic 62 on the first day, with fellow Americans Tony Finau, Sahith Theegala and Mark Hubbard in a tie for second place at six under, three off the lead.

McIlroy is in a large group that also contains Collin Morikawa, sitting four shots off the pace at –5.

Brooks Koepka and Scottie Scheffler are also among the prominent players chasing Schauffele, as they sit on four under after Thursday's action.

It was a more difficult day for Jon Rahm, who shot a one-under 70, but he would have gladly taken that score when he had bogeyed four of his first six holes, while Tiger Woods is at +1 after a 72.

McIlroy's last major win came in 2014 at this tournament and venue. He came into the event in form after two straight wins and remains in contention despite not playing at his peak.

"I rode my luck a little bit," McIlroy said to 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 [in round one]. 

"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.

"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.

"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 I am at least happy with the score."

Masters champion Scheffler will focus on his own game instead of focusing too much on Schauffele's stunning exploits.

"Yeah, I mean, there's nothing I can do," Scheffler said. "Xander went out and played a great round in the morning, and I'm not really going to worry about trying to shoot 9-under. I'm just going to go out and try to hit good shots and play my own game.

"I'd like to clean up a few of the mistakes. I missed two putts I felt like I should have holed, but that's going to happen when the greens get a little chewed up. A couple things I can clean up going into Friday, but overall it was a solid round."

Woods, meanwhile, has accepted inconsistency will be part of his game at this stage of his career, but felt frustrated to end day one over par.

"I am getting stronger for sure," Woods said. "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.

"I struggled with the speed of the greens. 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!"

Schauffele sunk nine birdies in a bogey-free round to take the lead. It is just the fourth time a 62 has been carded at a major, with Schauffele matching the record both he and Rickie Fowler equalled in round one of the 2023 US Open.

Branden Grace had previously gone round in 62 at The Open in 2017, though those efforts all came on par-70 courses, whereas Valhalla is a par-71.

Schauffele also beat the course record of 63, set by Jose Maria Olazabal in 2000.

Related items

  • US Open: McIlroy thrilled with 'controlled' and 'disciplined' start at Pinehurst US Open: McIlroy thrilled with 'controlled' and 'disciplined' start at Pinehurst

    Rory McIlroy believes his "controlled" and "disciplined" start will stand him in good stead at the US Open, where he is eyeing a first major triumph in 10 years.

    The three-time major winner opened with a bogey-free opening round of 65 at Pinehurst for a share of the lead with Patrick Cantlay.

    It is a good omen for McIlroy, who has gone on to lift the trophy on all three occasions he has started a major without bogeying - achieving the feat at the 2011 US Open, 2012 PGA Championship and 2014 Open Championship.

    The 35-year-old also equalled his best-ever start at a US Open, having posted 65 on the way to his 2011 victory and second-place finish 12 months ago.

    "It's nice to see your name at the top of the leaderboard after the first day of a US Open," McIlroy, who hit five birdies including two in the last three holes, told Sky Sports. 

    "I felt like I played a really solid, controlled round of golf. I just stayed disciplined and when I got myself in trouble, I took my medicine, two-putted.

    "This is the whole thing about a US Open, it's trying to keep clean scorecards like this. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to keep it bogey-free for the rest of the week. But it's not about how many birdies you make, it's about how many bogeys you don't make.

    "I had a run of pars from the 11th through to 15th where I had chances and wasn't able to convert. But I feel like the patience I showed over those five holes was rewarded with two birdies in the last three - a great way to finish.

    "I went through a run for a while where my starts at major championships weren't very good. I probably got myself a little too worked up at the start of the week.

    "Certainly, the major championships that I've won or the ones that I've played well at, I've always seemed to get off to a good start, and it's nice to get off to another one."

  • US Open: Tiger Woods admits to lack of sharpness after round one Pinehurst struggles US Open: Tiger Woods admits to lack of sharpness after round one Pinehurst struggles

    Tiger Woods conceded he was not as sharp as he needed to be during round one of the US Open on Thursday.

    The 15-time major winner carded a four-over 74 at Pinehurst No 2, leaving him nine shots adrift of co-leaders Patrick Cantlay and Rory McIlroy.

    Woods is making just a third start of the season as he focuses on being able to stay healthy for the majors but the 48-year-old acknowledged that is affecting his ability to compete.

    In quotes reported by Sky Sports, he said: "I didn't hit my irons particularly well. Didn't putt that great. Drove it on the string all day, just unfortunately I just didn't capitalise on it.

    "I was somewhat conservative in some of my end points. Then again, I didn't hit the ball very well either, so it added up to quite a bit of distance away from the flag. It's not where I wanted to be on a lot of the holes. It just ended up being that far away because I wasn't as sharp as I needed to be."

    "I'm physically getting better as the year has gone on. I just haven't been able to play as much because I just don't want to hurt myself pre (majors), then I won't be able to play in the major championships.

    "It's pick your poison, right? Play a lot with the potential of not playing, or not playing and fight being not as sharp."

  • US Open: McIlroy matches early pace set by Cantlay US Open: McIlroy matches early pace set by Cantlay

    Patrick Cantlay set the early pace on day one of the US Open at Pinehurst, with Rory McIlroy later matching his score to share the lead.

    McIlroy, part of the headline group with world number one, Scottie Scheffler and Xander Schauffele, had the chance to equal the lead on the 17th but missed his birdie shot by inches.

    However, he held his nerve on the final hole to finish a bogey-free five-under 65, giving him a share of the lead with Cantlay.

    A tough round for Scheffler saw him card a one-over 71, while Schauffele missed his birdie putt on the final hole to finish on level par.

    Five-time major winner Brooks Koepka briefly led after 10 holes, but a sloppy finish saw him finish on level par, with Collin Morikawa matching his score shortly after.

    Meanwhile, Tiger Woods made a promising start with a birdie on the 10th, his first hole of the round, but he struggled as he went on, finishing with a four-over 74.

    Bryson DeChambeau was among the later starters in North Carolina.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.