• US PGA Championship, Round One

McIlroy and Scott off to flyers at Kiawah Island

ESPN staff
August 9, 2012
Tiger Woods watches his shot to the 13th green © PA Photos


Rory McIlroy fired a warning to his rivals on day one of the US PGA Championship after posting a fluent five-under 67 to end the first round just one shot behind early leader Carl Pettersson.

McIlroy entered the final major of the year having failed to finish in the top 20 of a showpiece since winning the 2011 US Open, but the Northern Irishman put down an early marker in South Carolina with a bogey-free performance.

The world No. 3 set about his task with conviction, rolling in a birdie at the 10th - his first hole - to settle any persisting nerves. There was an air of confidence about McIlroy from the off, and he quickly established an easy rhythm, the kind we have become accustomed to seeing when he is at the top of his game.

There were two more birdies before the turn and, importantly, he headed for the first without a blot on his scorecard. There was further gloss at the par-five second, before the Ulsterman picked up another shot at the sixth - his final birdie of an error-free 18 holes.

That left him two shots behind Pettersson - the Swede looking to impress European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal and earn a wildcard pick for next month's event. With McIlroy right on his tail, Gonzalo-Fernandez Castano and Gary Woodland are also both five-under.

Tiger Woods won the last of his 14 majors at the 2008 US Open and recently admitted his frustration at not having added to his haul in the four years since. However, the American, who can return to the top of the rankings if he wins his 15th major this weekend, showed enough signs in his first round on Thursday to indicate he is ready to reclaim one of the sport's biggest prizes.

Beginning on the back nine, an opening birdie arrived at the 12th, although his early promise was soon in danger of being forgotten as two bogeys pushed him back to one-over. However, Woods' game is in rude enough health that minor setbacks do not usually lead to a total meltdown and he hit back immediately to haul himself level through six holes.

Three birdies in a row from the 18th got Woods, as well as the crowd, pumped up but their combined joy was short-lived as a dropped shot on the fourth saw him return to earth with a thump. His bruised ego did not last long though, a wonderful birdie-two at the par-three eighth reigniting the crowd's enthusiasm. A closing par for a three-under 69 leaves the former world No. 1 two strokes adrift of the clubhouse leaders on three-under.

Two-time major winner John Daly is alongside Geoff Ogilvy and defending champion Keegan Bradley on four-under - with both men later joined by Adam Scott and Graeme McDowell.

Scott (and McDowell, albeit to a lesser extent) suffered heartbreak at last month's Open Championship but gave himself an immediate chance to bounce back, with two back nine birdies seeing him to four-under a total level with Aaron Baddeley and defending champion Keegan Bradley.

The traditional group of the year's major champions produced mixed results, as a sloppy par putt at the last saw Open champion Ernie Els finish at level-par as Masters winner Bubba Watson carded a one-over par round and US Open victor Webb Simpson, lacking competitive practice after the recent birth of his second child, fired a 79.

Lee Westwood may have to wait until 2013 to claim a maiden major after an opening three-over 75 left him well off the pace. The Englishman has slipped to fourth in the rankings after a disappointing run of results which culminated in an 11-over 81 in the third round at the recent WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and his struggles showed no sign of arresting on a humbling day for the Worksop player.

Phil Mickelson had a nightmarish day off the tee © PA Photos

Frustratingly for Westwood, he started brightly, birdieing his second hole and going through his first four holes in one-under. A bogey at the 14th did little to dampen his spirits, as a birdie at 16 testifies to. But from then on in it all went downhill, a four-over front nine leaving him with a mountain to climb with three quarters of the tournament remaining.

World No. 1 Luke Donald, playing in the afternoon, had similar struggles - eventually shooting 74 to leave himself with work to do simply to make the halfway cut at the Ocean Course.

It was somehow one shot worse off than Phil Mickelson, despite the fact the left-hander seemed unable to find a fairway for love nor money all day. The former winner of this tournament was woeful off the tee but conjured up a series of miraculous recoveries from increasingly difficult spots to stay within touching distance of par - as he bids to keep hold of his current automatic qualification spot for the Ryder Cup.

It was also a day to forget for Martin Kaymer, who won the 2010 edition of the tournament at Whistling Straits, the German capitulating on his way to a sorry seven-over 79. With his game in disarray, the 7,676-yard Ocean Course - the longest in major championship history - was merciless and proved a nightmare for the out-of-sorts 27-year-old.

He started with two bogeys and, despite a brief show of resistance, things only went from bad to worse. He dropped three more shots before the turn and, although he found some momentary form to sink two birdies, his flourish went as quickly as it came and a triple-bogey seven plunged his round deeper into the mire. Eventually, his chastening experience drew to a conclusion, a massive 12 shots separating Kaymer from the co-leaders.

England's Paul Casey had an equally difficult time of things, ending the day with much to ponder on seven-over. The much-fancied Jason Dufner was also off colour, a poor second nine holes seeing him sign for a two-over 74.

Sergio Garcia finished the day four-over, with his round perhaps most notable for the penalty shot he called on himself after his ball rolled after address in the middle of the fairway at the par-five 16th.

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