A good day for the Irish at Kiawah
Golf:Rory McIlroy kicked off golf’s final major of the year with a superb five-under-par 67 to be only one off the lead at boiling hot Kiawah Island today, helped rather than hindered by a spectator this time.
In last month’s Open at Royal Lytham, McIlroy’s hopes of a second major title nosedived after a drive rebounded off a teenager’s head out of bounds late on the first day. At the USPGA Championship he hit a lady on the hip after badly pulling his tee shot to the dangerous short 17th — his eighth — but it came back into a nice lie in the sand only 25 feet from the flag.
From there the 23-year-old Northern Irishman — already three under for the day - splashed out to six feet, saved his par and brought a cheer from the gallery by running back to give the fan the ball.
“It’s becoming a habit hitting people at majors, so I will try not to do that again,” he said after picking up more shots on the second and sixth to tuck in just behind US-based Swede Carl Pettersson.
“I think that’s my first bogey-free round in a while and it was a great way to start. I’m pretty comfortable on the course and only played nine holes on Monday and nine on Tuesday; I didn’t feel I needed to play more. I’m expecting this to be the best day of the week (weather-wise), but it’s hot and you just try to stay hydrated.”
Pettersson became an American citizen earlier this year, but is not eligible for either side in next month’s Ryder Cup. He is not a member of the European Tour and therefore has not collected points since the race started last August, while to play for America he had to become a citizen by the time he was 18.
“I don’t think I could fake that one,” joked the 34-year-old, who as part of the citizenship process had to answer the following question: what is the ocean to the east of America?
Yet another member of the long putter brigade following the major victories by Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els in the past year, Pettersson was also bogey-free as the thunderstorms of earlier in the week gave way to near perfect conditions — apart from the energy-sapping heat, that is.
McIlroy was alongside big-hitting American Gary Woodland, Spain’s Ryder Cup hopeful Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and another Swede, Alex Noren.
Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell came home in 33 in the windier afternoon conditions to be part of a group on 68 that also included 1991 winner John Daly, Dutchman Joost Luiten – eight under before bogeying the last four holes — and Adam Scott, who blew the British Open last month by closing with four straight bogeys.
Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Wales’s Irish Open champion Jamie Donaldson shot 69s, while Ian Poulter and 2008 champion. Ireland’s Padraig Harrington — both looking to move into a Ryder Cup qualifying place — had 70s. Woods said: “Anything in the 60s is going to be a good start in a major championship. I’m right there. The wind kicked up a little bit and it changed things quite a bit.”
Two late birdies helped Martin Laird to a one-under 71, but Luke Donald was in the water on the 17th as he shot 74 and Lee Westwood also finished poorly and signed for a 75. Former British Open champions Darren Clarke and Paul Lawrie both had 73s like Simon Dyson and David Lynn, while Robert Rock took 76, Northern Ireland's MIchael Hoey (78) and Paul Casey, with only one cut made since dislocating his shoulder snowboarding last Christmas, struggled again and handed in a 79.