KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina (Reuters) - A relaxed and confident Rory McIlroy shot a bogey-free, five-under-par 67 in the opening round of the PGA Championship on Thursday, looking at ease with the challenges of the beautiful Ocean Course.
The Northern Irishman has taken a minimalist approach to preparing for the final major of the season and with conditions good for scoring early on Thursday, McIlroy took full advantage as he grabbed a share of the early lead.
“I‘m pretty comfortable with the golf course. I played nine holes on Monday, nine holes on Tuesday and that was it. That’s all I played,” said McIlroy.
”I didn’t feel like I needed to play anymore. I had a good look at each nine and then just hit balls yesterday and just tried to keep in a good rhythm.
“I came out this morning and played great. I’ve got my lines off the tees and I know what it’s like around the greens. I think that was my first bogey‑free round in a while, and that’s always nice.”
McIlroy, who has failed to contend in golf’s biggest events since winning his first grand slam at the in 2011 U.S. Open, hit 10 fairways and 15 greens in regulation and said he had gained confidence from his play off the tee.
“When you’re hitting it in the fairway and you’re hitting it long, it gives you a big advantage over a good percentage of the field,” said McIlroy.
”Like, for instance, I was going in with a little wedge on six. It’s 480 yards, where maybe the rest of the field might be going in with something longer. It gives you an opportunity to get to some of these par fives in two, as well.
The sea-breeze, which can play havoc at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, was almost absent in the early stages with the heat and humidity providing a different kind of challenge.
“It was flat calm and I really thought that I had to take advantage of the conditions,” said McIlroy.
”It’s tough. It’s hot. You’re drinking a lot and just trying to stay hydrated. It’s just about taking enough fluids on board to keep you going throughout the round.
Editing by Frank Pingue