Rory McIlroy has finally found a quick start in a major game to overtake partner Tiger Woods in the 104th US PGA Championship.
Since the last of his four major wins at the 2014 US PGA, McIlroy has averaged 35 overs combined in the first round of four major golf tournaments, his latest effort being a one-over-par 73 in the April Masters.
But perhaps inspired by the partnership with Woods and Jordan Spieth – who is chasing a career grand slam in Tulsa – it was a different story on opening day in Southern Hills, where Woods won 13th of his 15 major in 2007.
McIlroy hit seven birdies and two bogey cards in an opening 65 to give the clubhouse a five-under goal, one shot ahead of American pair of Will Galatoris and Tom Hogg.
Woods played his first five holes with two unders, but has struggled since then and admitted his right leg – which he feared could be amputated after last year’s car accident – was “not feeling as good as I would like”.
The 46-year-old finally signed for a 4-over-par-74, with Spieth returning for 72 runs.
“It was a great start to the tournament,” said McIlroy, who made four consecutive birdies in his front nine and reached below six after 14 holes to equalize the lowest score in men’s history.
“I came here and played well. I’m carrying some good form. Apparently I took a lot from the last round of Augusta (64), played well in Wells Fargo and played well in the practice round earlier this week.
“I think when your game feels like that, go out there and really stick with your game plan, perform as much as you can and stay in your own little world.
“I did it really well today. It was good to get off that good start and sorta keep it going.
“I like this course, if you want to be, it lets you be quite aggressive outside of the T, so I hit a lot of drivers there and took advantage of my length and finished it with some nice iron play and some nice. Placement.
“It simply came to our notice then. I did everything you had to do there and I have to continue doing the same thing for the next three days. ”
Woods faces an uphill battle to cut like the Masters, where he opens with a 71 but fades surprisingly and fires a back-to-back round of 78 over the weekend.
“I did it well, but my iron shots weren’t very good,” Woods said. “I didn’t get the ball very close. I made a great start and couldn’t keep up. I didn’t really give myself much of a look for Birdie.
“I was trying to get the green ball, and I missed several iron shots on both sides. It was a frustrating day. ”
Woods was remarkably lustful as he walked away from completing his post-round television interview, adding: “My legs are not feeling as good as I would like. We will start the recovery process and finish it tomorrow.
“I can’t load it. Loading hurts, pressing hurts, and walking hurts, and twisting hurts. It’s just golf. If I don’t do it, I’m fine.”
Scotland’s Robert McIntyre and England’s Tyrell Hatton lie five shots behind McIlroy after a 70-round match.