KIAWAH ISLAND – Rory McIlroy dug himself into a deep hole in another major before barely getting started, shooting three-over-par 75 in the opening round at the PGA Championship on Thursday (May 20).
The Northern Irishman will have to defy history to lift the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday. Not since John Mahaffey in 1978 has a player recovered from such a poor opening round to capture the title.
It all went wrong from the very start for McIlroy when he blocked his opening tee shot at the par-four 10th so far right into a hazard that he was not even quite sure where to take his penalty drop on a typically windswept morning at Kiawah Island.
A flock of eight herons flew overhead in perfect aerodynamic formation as McIlroy pondered his third shot from a waste bunker.
He eventually holed a clutch five-foot putt for bogey, getting up-and-down from a bunker for what in the end was an excellent nerve-settling bogey.
But even though he avoided disaster there, it was not to be the best of days for the man who looked likely to be the greatest player of his generation when he won the 2012 PGA Championship by eight strokes on this course.
With father Gerry in the large, mainly maskless gallery that arrived early in brilliant morning sunshine, McIlroy got to the turn in even par thanks to an excellent short game that would have done the late Seve Ballesteros proud.
But he could not continue the chipping and putting magic and this was the third straight major that McIlroy has struggled early. In back-to-back Masters he shot opening rounds of 75 and 76.
McIlroy, 32, did not speak with the media on Thursday, no doubt despondent to be six shots from the early lead and in need of a strong round on Friday to avoid going home early for the second major in a row.
McIlroy piled up four majors in quick succession from 2011 through 2014 but is winless since in any of the four championships that comprise the modern Grand Slam.
He has proved a good frontrunner in majors, shooting 67 or better on each of the four occasions he has lifted the trophy, but has yet to prove he can stage a comeback from a big deficit.