LEADERBOARD -5 McIlroy; -4 Hoge, Zalatoris; -3 Kuchar, Herbert, Ancer, Thomas. SELECTED OTHERS -2 Fitzpatrick, Schauffele; E MacIntyre, Hovland, Hatton, Fleetwood; +1 Rose, Lowry, Scheffler; +2 Spieth, Morikawa,; +3 D. Johnson, Rahm; +4 Woods; +5 Koepka.
Rory McIlroy produced a stunning display at Southern Hills to lead the PGA Championship after the first round.
Without a major win since 2014, the 33-year-old was close to flawless as he tamed the newly-redesigned Oklahoma track.
Playing in a star-studded group alongside Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth, McIlroy made just two bogeys – both coming late in his round – and had no worse than a four on any hole as he shot 65.
The final-round fightback at the Masters was a case of what might have been had he been able to banish his early-tournament demons.
However, here the Northern Irishman did just that as he made the most of the favourable weather conditions for the early starters.
His front nine in particular was vintage McIlroy. After opening with two pars on the tenth and 11th, his first holes of the day, four consecutive birdies followed, sending him surging into the lead.
He would get to six-under at one stage before dropping two shots – but a fabulous putt for a birdie at the last ended the round on a high and put him in pole position.
“I’ve been playing well coming in here. I’ve been carrying some good form,” he told reporters.
“I think when your game is feeling like that, it’s just a matter of going out there and really sticking to your game plan, executing as well as you possibly can, and just sort of staying in your own little world. I did that really well today. It was nice to get off to that good start and sort of keep it going.”
Others went low, too. Will Zalatoris continued his fine major record, reach four-under. He was joined by Tom Hoge, until recently a lesser-known name on tour but now finally establishing himself among the finest out there.
Veteran Matt Kuchar put himself in the frame too, among a host of players a shot further back. Lucas Herbert made a late charge to join the party, while former PGA winner Justin Thomas, among the favourites, and Abraham Ancer were the others sitting on three-under.
For others, things were a little tougher. Woods started well with two birdies in five holes, then faded to four-over. Brooks Koepka, a winner of consecutive PGAs in 2018 and 2019 but woefully out of form, toiled too.
It could all change on Friday, but for now, it’s advantage McIlroy heading into round two.