Rory McIlroy struggled on his return to Kiawah Island with a three-over-par 75 in the opening round at the US PGA Championship as playing partner Brooks Koepka impressed.

McIlroy won by eight shots the last time the PGA Championship was staged at Ocean Course in South Carolina in 2012 and was installed as the favourite of many after ending a winless streak of almost two years at the Wells Fargo Championship two weeks ago.

However, the four-time major champion – seeking a first major title since 2014 – landed his very first shot into the water on a windswept morning before recovering somewhat with back-to-back birdies on Thursday.

McIlroy – a two-time PGA Championship winner – was level par at the turn after dropping another shot on the par-five 16th, but he managed just one more birdie compared to five bogeys as he closed for 75, eight shots behind Corey Conners.

Koepka played down expectations heading into the tournament due to a knee injury and he started slowly with a double-bogey on his first hole, though the two-time PGA Championship winner recovered well with two birdies in the next three holes.

After turning in 36, Koepka picked up three shots in four holes on the front nine to complete an impressive turnaround that saw him earn a share of the lead before Conners soared to the summit as he aims to add to his successes in this event in 2018 and 2019.

"I felt like an idiot," he told Sky Sports Golf when reflecting on his cagey start. "It was probably a poor club choice off 10. I thought three-wood would have carried, but it didn't. I also didn't find the face, it barely hit the face!

"The first rule is, if you're in trouble, get the hell out. I couldn't reach the green and it was a bad lie, so I didn't know where I was going. I just tried to hit a sand-wedge up by the green instead of just chopping it out.

"So it was a mental mistake there, and I deserved every bit of that double-bogey. But it kind of helped me refocus. I can't play with any mistakes, maybe one a day, and that was my one, and I got it out of the way on the first hole."

Koepka is joined on three-under par by former champion Keegan Bradley, Viktor Hovland. Aaron Wise and Sam Horsfield.

Bradley's opening round included four birdies and just one dropped shot, coming on the par-four 13th, while Hovland bounced back from an opening bogey with four birdies.

Collin Morikawa is one shot further back after bogeying his final hole, the defending champion joined on a first-round 70 by Martin Laird, who was also let down by a couple of dropped shots on his final two holes.

Justin Thomas finds himself way down the standings, meanwhile, after carding a three over that included a double-bogey on the 18th, while US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau had a mixed first day as he posted a level-par 72.

World number one Dustin is among the late starters, along with Jordan Spieth, Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose.

Rory McIlroy, Bryson DeChambeau and defending champion Collin Morikawa will tee off within the first two hours of the US PGA Championship, which got underway on Thursday at 07:00 local time.

Patrick Rada, Cameron Triangle, Adam Long were the first three players to tee off on Thursday at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course.

Matt Jones highlighted the second group, which teed off 11 minutes later. The Australian won this year's Honda Championship – the same competition which Rory McIlory won before dominating on this course in the PGA Championship in 2012.

McIlroy, who comes into the tournament on the back of a one-stroke victory at the Wells Fargo Championship, is in the hunt for a fifth major title.

His last win in the PGA Championship, in 2014, is his most recent of those major victories, and the Northern Irishman, currently ranked at seventh in the world, is one of the favourites.

McIlroy's average drive of 318 yards across the season so far puts him, in theory, in good stead to handle the Ocean Course, which at 7,878 yards, is the longest major track.

He is set to tee off at 08:33 local time from the first, and is paired with fellow US PGA champions Justin Thomas (2017) and Brooks Koepka (2018, 2019).

Shortly after that trio start, another big hitter in the form of 2020 US Open champion DeChambeau takes to the field. He averages 322 yards per drive this season, topping the PGA tour, though his accuracy is down at 172nd out of 215 players. That accuracy is however better than McIlroy, who ranks at 175th.

Teeing off alongside De Chambeau is Morikawa, who became the third-youngest player to win the major since it became a stroke-play event in 1958 – after McIlroy and the legendary Jack Nicklaus – when he triumphed in California last year.

The Masters champion, Hideki Matsuyama, completes a fearsome trio.

Three more previous US PGA champions will head out together later in the day, with Phil Mickelson, Jason Day and Padraig Harrington taking to the course at 13:14 in South Carolina.

They will be followed from the first by Tommy Fleetwood, world number three Jon Rahm and Patrick Reed, at approximately 13:25.

Jordan Spieth heads into the major as the only player in the field capable of completing a career grand slam this week. He starts at 13:58. 

Xander Schauffele is the first top-five player due out at 08:22, while world number on Dustin Johnson is one of the later starters.

One player who will not be featuring is Francesco Molinari, who withdrew on Thursday due to a back injury.

Major glory awaits for one man at Kiawah Island on Sunday, when the winner of the US PGA Championship will be confirmed.

With such a stacked field it is hard to pick out the most likely victor, but that has not stopped Stats Peform's team of expert writers from having a go.

Last year it was Collin Morikawa who prevailed, snapping American compatriot Brooks Koepka's run of consecutive wins.

Who will it be this time?

IT'S OFFICIAL, RORY IS BACK! – Peter Hanson

Okay, I'm officially calling it – Rory McIlroy is back! At the back end of 2019 and the start of 2020, the Northern Irishman was flying. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. Then there were some questionable decisions to start trying to match the bombs Bryson DeChambeau can nail off the tee. Then there were some ugly results – including missed cuts at the Players Championship and the Masters. But forget all that, McIlroy – just six weeks on from starting work with renowned coach Pete Cowen – was back in the winners' circle at Quail Hollow last weekend, his first title since November 2019. A McIlroy in full swagger is a joy for any golf fan, and crucially he knows how to get it done at Kiawah Island having won the first of his two PGA Championship titles at the South Carolina course back in 2012 – doing so by eight strokes, a record for the tournament. It's time for Rory to finally get that fifth major.

SCHAUFFELE HAS GOT THIS ONE – Russell Greaves

If you have this notion that Xander Schauffele always seems to be in contention at the majors, it's because he is. His tie for third at the Masters this year represented an eighth top-10 finish at a major for Schauffele, with two of those coming at the US PGA. His record is one of remarkable consistency, with only one missed cut across 14 entries in the sport's four headline events. Schauffele is one of the most adaptable players out there, as evidenced by his PGA Tour-leading sand save percentage of 69.35. At just 27, it seems inevitable he will eventually clinch a title at one of those quartet of tournaments.

HIDEKI WILL DOUBLE UP – Ben Spratt

Hideki Matsuyama had been waiting a long time for his breakthrough triumph at Augusta last month, with seven top-10 finishes at majors without reaching the winner's circle before that Masters victory. "It was a relief, really," he said last week. But having got that monkey off his back and shown he is good enough in his approach play that a poor putting game need not be a hindrance, Matsuyama can no longer be written off so easily. The Japanese will be heading to Kiawah Island full of confidence and ready to win. A second straight success would really lay down a marker.

IT'S RAHM TIME – John Skilbeck 

Sooner or later, or so goes the theory, Jon Rahm will win a major. Let's tilt towards sooner then, because Rahm is top of the PGA Tour's ball-striking chart this season, fourth in terms of finding greens in regulation and top 20 in average driving distance and scoring average. On a course set to measure over 7,800 yards, those ingredients in his game look more than useful, but Rahm will need to putt well too and that is not a given. He is down in a share of 192nd for putts per round this season, so needs to get something going with the short stick. He is developing a reputation as a Masters specialist, with four successive top-10 finishes at Augusta, and the Kiawah Island conditions will be a world away from those in Georgia. But this breakthrough at a major is going to happen sooner or later, isn't it?

RAHM'S THE ONE FOR ME – Chris Myson 

Aside from a tie for fourth at the 2018 US PGA Championship, Rahm has not made a huge impact at this event. But he is rightly among the favourites for victory this week on the back of his tie for fifth place at the Masters and his continued consistency on the PGA Tour. With six top-10 finishes to his name at major championships, Rahm has proven he can get himself into contention at the biggest events. And he comes into the latest major in form. While the world number three is yet to win this year, he has missed the cut just once in 10 events. Rahm says the recent birth of his son Kepa has helped to take the pressure off his pursuit of a first major, an occasion which is surely not far away.

The 2022 US PGA Championship will no longer be held at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster.

The PGA of America announced on Sunday it had terminated its agreement to play the major at the course owned by United States president Donald Trump.

It comes just days after supporters of the president stormed the United States Capitol.

"The PGA of America Board of Directors voted tonight to exercise the right to terminate the agreement to play the 2022 PGA Championship at Trump Bedminster," PGA of America president Jim Richerson said in a statement.

"It has become clear that conducting the PGA Championship at Trump Bedminster would be detrimental to the PGA of America brand and would put at risk the PGA's ability to deliver our many programs and sustain the longevity of our mission," Richerson added in a video.

The decision to hold the tournament at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster was made in 2014.

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