McIlroy makes poor start to US PGA

Rory McIlroy

McIlroy has not won a major since winning the US PGA Championship at Valhalla in 2014

Rory McIlroy lies nine shots off the clubhouse lead after carding a four-over-par 74 in the first round of the US PGA Championship at Baltusrol.

The Northern Irishman had three bogeys in his first seven holes in a birdie-free round at the final major of 2016.

American Jimmy Walker set the early pace with a five-under 65, one clear of England’s Ross Fisher, while defending champion Jason Day shot 70.

Masters champion Danny Willett is among the late starters in New Jersey.

The Englishman is playing, in line with PGA tradition, with the two other major winners of this year, American Dustin Johnson, who won the US Open, and Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden.

Poor putting costs McIlroy

Playing alongside Australian Day and American Phil Mickelson, who pushed Stenson close at The Open earlier this month, McIlroy missed two birdie putts in his first two holes.

“Tee to green is not the problem, but when I get to the greens it’s a different story,” said the 27-year-old, who won in 2012 and 2014 and has recorded three other top-eight finishes in seven appearances in US PGA Championship.

“I had a couple of chances early on that I could not convert and then missed a couple of greens and did not get up and down and I was always chasing it from there.

“I really struggled with the pace. They look much quicker than they are and two or three times I had putts within 12 feet that were downhill and left them short.

“I need to be more aggressive and shoot something in the mid-60s and get into the weekend.”

A duffed chip and miss from six feet led to his first bogey on the 13th and he dropped shots on the 14th and 16th after hitting his ball into greenside bunkers on both holes.

Day, who had only one practice round after catching a bug off his son and then spending Tuesday night in hospital after his wife suffered an allergic reaction, had three birdies and a bogey in his two-under round.

Mickelson, who briefly joined McIlroy at four over, battled back to one over with three birdies in five holes.

The British challenge

Fisher leads the way after carding five birdies in his four-under 66; Andy Sullivan also holed five birdies but two bogeys left him a shot back.

Fellow Englishmen Chris Wood, Paul Casey and Lee Westwood opened with one-under-par 69s, the same score as Wales’ Bradley Dredge.

More to follow.

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