McIlroy: ‘Right in it’ despite stumble

Rory McIlroy bombed drives all over the Quail Hollow Club on Thursday and got within two shots of the lead during the first round of the PGA Championship with a birdie on the 10th hole.

Rory McIlroy chips to the green on the 14th green during the first round Thursday. (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

The pre-tournament co-favorite along with Jordan Spieth was overpowering a course he has two PGA Tour victories at, and appeared poised to continue climbing the leaderboard as he entered an attackable part of the course.

A bogey at the par-3 13th hole stalled the momentum a bit. But the driveable par-4 14th hole was next, and McIlroy took 3-wood out of his bag as he stayed in attack mode. However, he tugged his drive left into the water, had to drop in thick rough and took a double-bogey to drop two shots on one of the easiest holes on the course. It was a three-shot swing against playing partner Jon Rahm alone on one hole.

“It started well, 2-under through 12 and coming into a part of the course where you’re looking to pick a couple of shots up on 14 and 15 and played that stretch of holes – 13, 14 and 15, in 3-over,” McIlroy lamented. “So if I could have just had that three-hole stretch over…”

McIlroy is still very much in striking distance, five shots off the pace at 1-over and in a tie for 33rd along with Spieth and a host of others. It’s actually an improvement on the 50th-place average he has after the first rounds of tournaments this season.

On the flip side, he has had the lead or been within one shot of it following the first round in each of his four majors. Regardless, McIlroy entered the tournament with plenty of confidence and knows he’s still a very big threat despite that three-hole stretch Thursday.

“I thought other than that, I played nicely,” he said. “I did what I needed to do, birdied the par-5s, birdied the holes you should birdie. Yeah, disappointed with that three-hole stretch, but right in it.”

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