While spectators cooled off in the nearby Atlantic Ocean, Rory McIlroy quickly warmed to a second Major success with a five under par 67 on day one of the 94th PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.
Temperatures nudged close to 90 degrees along the shoreline while the golf was just as hot — with McIlroy displaying real purpose in muscling his way to within a stroke of the clubhouse lead.
Sweden’s Carl Pettersson produced a six under par 66 while McIlroy’s round was a mix of three birdies on his front nine and a pair over the inward half to join big-hitting American and Tiger Woods management stable mate, Gary Woodland.
Woods fought back from being one over par early in his round to card a three under par 69.
Missing from McIlroy’s demeanour were the shrugged shoulders, and apart from hitting a woman spectator, there was the continuing sparkle in his game from finishing fifth last week in Ohio and looking just as bright as the sparkling Atlantic.
The World No. 3 was out in the sixth group off the 10th and in near benign but increasingly hot and very humid weather.
McIlroy’s super round of six birdies was his lowest-ever round in four appearances in the PGA Championship.
“It was a great way to start the tournament,” he said.
“I was hitting balls on the range this morning and there was completely no wind. It was flat calm and I really thought that I had to take advantage of the conditions.
“So I got off to a great start to be three under par through seven and just took it on from there. So I’m very happy with the round, and it’s a great score to build on.”
And after some indifferent showings in recent weeks that saw McIlroy lose his No. 2 World Ranking to Tiger Woods, he spent an hour last week in Ohio again with legendary Dave Stockton. It had been Stockton who McIlroy’s caddy, JP Fitzgerald suggested he turn to following last year’s Augusta demise.
Stockton had spent some 15 minutes a few weeks later with McIlroy at Quail Hollow and then a few weeks on McIlroy produced his stunning Congressional command performance.
McIlroy had seen Stockton again this week and just needed 20 minutes with the double PGA Championship winner and 1991 victorious USA Ryder Cup captain.
“Seeing Dave has been great,” said McIlroy.
“I worked with Dave again a little bit in Akron last week. I know we made a slight adjustment to my routine and my stroke, and it made a huge difference last week. I felt so much better on the greens than I did at The Open.
“He sort of just said to me, ‘You know, just go out there and have fun and enjoy it and smile.’
“So that’s something that I’ve really tried to do the last two weeks, and it’s definitely helped.”
McIlroy rolled in birdies, each from 12 feet at the 10th and 14th holes when he had hit a 246-yard 4-iron before landing his 5-wood second shot just short of the green at 16 and then chipping to four feet for a third birdie.
Upon hitting the woman spectator McIlroy enquired as to her well-being and upon learning she was fine, he putted out for par but then returned, and much to the delight of the crowd, in presenting her with the ball.
Last month a young Bristol spectator was near as fortunate with McIlroy’s errant drive down the 15th fairway during the second round of the British Open opening up a nasty wound on the back of the teenager’s head.
The spectator needed medical attention but his pain was eased with McIlroy writing ‘Sorry’ on a glove and then autographing the glove before handing to him.
“It’s becoming a habit hitting people in majors, so I’ll try not to do that again,” he said smiling.
McIlroy made his way to the inward nine and then birdied the second after two-putting from 40 feet before landing a pitching wedge to 15 feet left of the flag at the sixth for the fifth birdie of his round.
“I’m pretty comfortable with the golf course and I think that showed today,” he said.
“I’ve got my lines off the tees and I know what it’s like around the greens.
Meantime Padraig Harrington was battling hard in the increasingly windier conditions — dropping a shot at his ninth to be one over par for his round heading to the back nine.
Graeme McDowell was faring a little better at one under par after 10 while Michael Hoey — out in the second last group on day one, had fought back from a double bogey at his seventh hole with birdies on eight and nine to be at one over par.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved