Rory McIlroy made a glorious start to the 104th US PGA Championship as a five-under par opening round of 65 saw him claim the lead at Southern Hills Country Club in Oklahoma.
The Northern Irishman – winner of the Wanamaker Trophy in 2012 and 2014 – enjoyed seven birdies and two bogeys with his putter as hot as the steamy Tulsa sunshine.
Starting out from the 10th tee alongside fellow major champions Tiger Woods (74) and Jordan Spieth (72) in the marquee group of Thursday morning, McIlroy chipped his ball stone dead for a birdie on the par-four 456-yard 12th hole before finding some vintage ball-striking and a clinical edge from short range.
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Three more birdies followed on the 13th, 14th and 15th as the four-time major champion marched to the turn in 31 amid a blizzard of 300-yard plus drives.
The momentum continued with further birdies on the second and fifth holes as he reached six under, but errant tee shots at the lengthy par-three sixth and eighth holes saw him drop back from holding the outright lead.
But McIlroy was not finished. With his length and accuracy off the tee working to great effect, McIlroy drained another swinging birdie from 20 feet on the ninth hole to conclude his day on minus five, one clear of Will Zalatoris (66) and Tom Hoge (66) overnight.
"It was a great start to the tournament," he said after producing his best opening round at a major since an opening 65 helped him win the 2011 US Open at Congressional.
"I've been playing well coming in here. I've been carrying some good form.
"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 keep it going.
I feel like this course, it lets you be pretty aggressive off the tee if you want to be, so I hit quite a lot of drivers out there and took advantage of my length and finished that off with some nice iron play and some nice putting.
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Woods looked in fine fettle early on in his second competitive appearance since his life-threatening car crash in February 2021.
The 15-time major champion enjoyed birdies on 10 and 14, but toiled for consistency as the first round progressed with bogeys on 15, 18, 1, 2, 4, 8 and 9 – interspersed with a birdie on the 3rd hole – seeing his hopes unravel as he finally signed for a draining 74.
"I just hit bad iron shots today," said Woods, who resumes his second round at 7.36pm (BST) from the first tee on Friday. "You can shoot something in the mid-60s. Rory made it look very easy today. I've witnessed it first hand. It can be done."
Chasing the career grand slam, Spieth carded a steady 72 with the strengthening summer winds beginning to trouble the later starters.
World No. 1 and US Masters champion Scottie Scheffler (71), US Open champion and world No. 2 Jon Rahm (73) and Open holder and world No. 3 Collin Morikawa (72) all struggled in the wind later in the afternoon and will hope for more favourable conditions for the second round on Friday morning.
US PGA Championship leaderboard
- -5 R McIlroy (NIR)
- -4 T Hoge (US)
- -4 W Zalatoris (US)
- -3 M Kuchar (US)
- -3 A Ancer (Mex)
- -3 J Thomas (US)
- -2 M Fitzpatrick (Eng)
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