Rory McIlroy response to doubters on his final hole was such a relief
A 66 would have been great, but McIlroy was not finished.
The statistics are lighting up like crazy across the TV broadcasters and across social media. Rory McIlroy has put an opening day run together at a major and though it is too early to get excited, there is certainly a quiver or two.
The four-time major winner shot into a day one lead at the US PGA after shooting a superb -5 round of 65 at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Starting his round, with Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods, on the 10th tee, McIlroy was even after the first two holes but then went birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie to reach -4 and go into the solo lead. The last time McIlroy carded four straight birdies in a US PGA, he won the tournament, at Valhalla in 2014.
A dazzling start from Rory! 🤩
4️⃣ birdies in a row gives McIlroy an early lead at the PGA Championship 👀 pic.twitter.com/oE903pNfqX
— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) May 19, 2022
Rory McIlroy was three clear, at one stage
The 32-year-old, who is coming on eight years without a major win, got par on the next three holes to reach his turn in 31 strokes. There was another par on the 10th before McIlroy's hot putter got him a birdie on his 11th hole.
Two holes later and another mid-range putt disappeared into the hole. McIlroy, at that stage, was on -6 while his nearest competitor, Will Zalatoris, was on -3.
A couple of par threes then caused a significant wobble for the Holywood native, as he missed the green on both and could not scramble to make par.
That saw Rory McIlroy drop back to -4 and in a tie for the lead with Zalatoris and Tom Hoge. Those that doubt McIlroy may never win a major again, or that he has been surpassed by other golfing stars like Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and more, were given a stock of ammunition.
Others that still pine for a return to McIlroy's major-winning days may have been cursing themselves for starting to believe again. McIlroy was co-leader, but Hoge was heading up and top golfers like Rahm, Scheffler, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas were still to tee off.
However, McIlroy steeled himself and went with driver off the 9th hole [his 18th]. The drive was off to the left but gave McIlroy a clear look at the green for his iron approach. He landed his approach to 20 feet away and the ball tracked back a few feet. It gave him an outside look at birdie to finish.
After Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth closed out their difficult rounds, McIlroy stepped up and confidently drained another clutch putt. He was back in the lead and there was palpable relief for McIlroy, and his supporters.
As McIlroy headed back to sign the scorecards, the positive omens were pinging up, left, right and centre.
Rory McIlroy: 65, his lowest opening round score in a major since the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional.
Last 4 times he's opened a major with 66 or better:
2011 U.S. Open (W)
2014 Open (W)
2014 PGA (W)
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) May 19, 2022
Ahead of the US PGA, Rory McIlroy reflected on the many tough opening rounds that put him in holes, over the past eight years, he struggled to climb out of.
At Southern Hills today, he has given himself a chance, and an advantage over the very best out there. That was all he was asking for.
"It's great," he told Sky Sports, "to get off to a good start at a major championship for a change!
You can stream the weekend's coverage from Southern Hills Country Club in Oklahoma with a NOW Sports Membership. The coverage will begin at 1 pm Irish time.