The world number one’s plans for the rest of the season remain unaltered despite the seven-week break due to an ankle injury he was forced to endure between the US Open in June and this week’s PGA Championship, which he got under way last night at Whistling Straits.
Before he got his title defence under way, McIlroy spoke of his playing schedule after the FedEx Cup Play-Off Series, including abiding by a PGA Tour request made three years ago to contest the Frys.com Open in California’s Napa Valley, the first tournament of that tour’s 2015-16 schedule.
McIlroy had agreed to play the event in order to secure his ‘release’ from the PGA Tour to compete in the one-off 2012 Turkish Airlines World Golf Final in Belek.
“Following the FedEx Cup I am playing the Frys.com Open as that was the deal with the Tour when we competed out in Turkey a few years back,” McIlroy said. “So when I played Turkey a few years ago, it was the deal we did with the Tour but then I am looking forward to the Fry’s as I’ve never been to that part of California before.
“I am then heading back to play a few events on the European Tour including the WGC–HSBC Champions event in Shanghai and the last event of the season, the DP World Tour Championship.” McIlroy has ruled out competing in a third straight Australian Open adding: “I was only contracted to play the one Australian Open but then after winning in 2013 I wanted to show respect to the tournament by defending my title. But it’s not on my schedule this year so there will be no Australian Open this year. Despite my time away with injury I don’t intend to start adding tournaments here and there because after this week here at Whistling I do intend to take it easy.
“This is my first week back after the injury so I want to see how my leg stands up to this week and then we will reassess matters.
“Of course, we are not expecting any problems but then given the seriousness of my injury I will still have to cross every t and dot every i.”
The late-starting McIlroy, playing in the opening round’s marquee group alongside his great rival for the number one ranking Jordan Spieth and Open champion Zach Johnson, got off to a shaky start last night. Driving into left rough, as would Masters and US Open champion Spieth, the Irishman recovered sufficiently to give himself a par putt from inside 10 feet.
Unfortunately, having not played competitively since the US Open at Chambers Bay in June, they was a very early sign of rust after he misses the putt and bogeyed the first hole, an error compounded when both world number two Spieth and Johnson saved pars.
McIlroy, though, bounced right back at the par-five second, his iron play showing no lack of sharpness as he drilled excellent approach from 250 yards out to 22 feet, from where he two-putted for birdie to get back to even par, although he would return to one over with a birdie at the par-four ninth It was the other Johnson, Dustin, who had set the target to beat on day one at Whistling Straits, the course on which he had let slip his chances of a maiden major victory five years ago at the 2010 PGA.
Of the late starters contending with a stiffening breeze, Johnson’s clubhouse lead was being threatened by Sweden’s David Lingmerth, this year’s Memorial champion, who moved to within a shot of the lead with a fifth birdie in the first seven holes on the back nine.
It is doubtful Shane Lowry was feeling quite as satisfied as the drama and emotion of his WGC-Bridgestone Invitational victory in Akron, Ohio, last Sunday night caught up with the Irishman. Lowry hooked his opening tee shot. At least that was salvaged with a par, the Offaly man bogeyed the second then doubled the third and added another bogey at the par-four sixth.
Early Wisconsin scoreboard
US PGA Scores (USA unless stated, par 72):
66 Dustin Johnson
68 J.B. Holmes, Matt Jones (Aus), Russell Henley, Matt Kuchar, Danny Lee (Nzl), Jason Day (Aus), Harris English 69 Brendan Steele, Justin Rose (Eng), Thomas Bjorn (Den), James Morrison (Eng)
70 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Paul Casey (Eng), Martin Kaymer (Ger), Anirban Lahiri (Ind), Robert Streb, Charles Howell III
71 Francesco Molinari (Ita), Tony Finau, Rory Sabbatini (Rsa), Ernie Els (Rsa), Branden Grace (Rsa), Brian Gaffney, Brandt Snedeker
72 Mikko Ilonen (Fin), Bubba Watson, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Hunter Mahan, Marc Warren (Sco), Sergio Garcia (Spa), Morgan Hoffmann, Lee Westwood (Eng)
73 Charl Schwartzel (Rsa), David Howell (Eng), Chesson Hadley, Tyrrell Hatton (Eng), Vijay Singh (Fij), John Daly, Bill Haas, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler, Ryan Moore.
74 Pat Perez, Adam Rainaud, Geoff Ogilvy (Aus), Matt Every, Thongchai Jaidee (Tha)
75 Tiger Woods, J.J. Henry, Ryan Palmer, Byeong-Hun An (Kor), James Hahn, Boo Weekley.
76 Ross Fisher (Eng), Brent Snyder, David Hearn (Can), Ryan Helminen, Victor Dubuisson (Fra), Keegan Bradley, Stephen Gallacher (Sco), Matt Dobyns, Brendon Todd, Martin Laird (Sco), Carl Pettersson (Swe)
77 Grant Sturgeon, David Toms, Johan Kok (Rsa), Steven Young (Sco).
USPGA: TEE TIMES
Teeing off on the first hole.
C Frost (US), G McNeill (US), E Grillo (Arg)
B Jones (US), C Wood, G DeLaet (Can)
G Coetzee (SA), S Kjeldsen (Den), B Martin (US)
S Michael (US), R Beem (US), YE Yang (Kor)
R Cabrera-Bello (Spa), S Bowditch (Aus), D Berger (US)
P Larrazabal (Spa), C Villegas (Col), K Aphibarnrat (Tha)
C Smith (Aus), H Iwata (Jpn), S Stefani (US)
D Lingmerth (Swe), K Streelman (US), S-Moon Bae (Kor)
A Levy (Fra), T Merritt (US), R Knox
M Angel Jimenez (Spa), T Clark (SA), B Horschel (US)
E Pepperell, S Dougherty (US), K Na (US)
K Kisner (US), M Leishman (Aus), B Polland (US)
A Morin (US), A Sullivan, S Piercy (US)
B Gaffney (US), D Hearn (Can), P Perez (US)
B Steele (US), J Kok (SA), H Matsuyama (Jpn)
J Daly (US), M Dobyns (US), C Montgomerie
V Dubuisson (Fra), M Kuchar (US), C Schwartzel (SA)
B Haas (US), S Garcia (Spa), L Oosthuizen (SA)
J Rose, G Ogilvy (Aus), B Snedeker (US)
B Watson (US), J Furyk (US), P Casey
E Els (SA), L Westwood, H Mahan (US)
R Fowler (US), J Day (Aus), D Johnson (US)
T Woods (US), M Kaymer (Ger), K Bradley (US)
M Warren, F Molinari (Ita), G Woodland (US)
T Hatton, B Snyder (US), B Todd (US)
F Gomez (Arg), J Olson (US), M Laird
A Cejka (Ger), K Oda (Jpn), B Sowards (US)
K Chappell (US), R Kennedy (US), B de Jonge (Zim)
S Stricker (US), D Love III (US)
J Thomas (US), T Fleetwood, J Walker (US)
B Wiesberger (Aut),
W Simpson (US)
I Poulter, N Watney (US), J Luiten (Ned)
P Reed (US),
, L Donald
B Koepka (US), A Scott (Aus), H Stenson (Swe)
J Spieth (US),
Z Johnson (US)
J Dufner (US), P Mickelson (US), P Harrington
D Willet, J Senden (Aus), C Triangle (US)
M Siem (Ger), J Bohn (US), O Uresti (US)
D Venezio (US), R Ramsay, N Taylor (Can)
C Hadley (US), R Sabbatini (SA), R Helminen (US)
B Weekley (US), G Sturgeon (US), D Howell
T Bjorn (Den), A Peters (US), C Howell III (US)
R Streb (US), R Henley (US), B Hun An (Kor)
J Morrison, R Palmer (US), C Hoffman (US)
R Moore (US), T Jaidee (Tha), S Gallacher
D Toms (US), M Brooks (US), V Singh (Fij)
H English (US), J Donaldson, J Hahn (US)
JB Holmes (US), M IIonen (Fin), R Fisher
T Finau (US), D Lee (NZ), B Grace (SA)
A Lahiri (Ind), M Hoffmann (US), S Young
M Jones (Aus), B Cairns (US), M Every (US)
A Rainaud (US), B Harman (US), JJ Henry (US)