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August 8 2013

8:00 PM

Defending champ McIlroy up and down

McIlroy broke par in the opening round of a major this year for the first time. (Redington/Getty Images)

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A year ago, Rory McIlroy trailed by just one after the opening round of the PGA Championship before lapping the field in a record victory.

After a three-putt bogey on the 17th hole Thursday at Oak Hill, he's only 1 under after the first round and five off the lead of Adam Scott and Jim Furyk.

McIlroy carded a 69 with five birdies and four bogeys in an up-and-down afternoon, interrupted by an hour-long weather delay. When the defending champion returned from the break, he rolled in his putt for birdie on the 12th hole.

He had another opportunity on 13, but much the way his season has been inconsistent so was his round and he missed it.

McIlroy didn't make another birdie the rest of the round, finishing with five pars and a bogey on a day that started much better than it ended.

In a year that has seen zero wins, a mid-round walk off and only four top 10s on the PGA TOUR all year (and none since May), McIlroy looked like he might finally be ready to break out of his slump.

He started with birdies on three of his first four holes Thursday.

McIlroy bogeyed the fifth but added another birdie on No. 9 to make the turn in 3 under and within two of the lead. But back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 10 and 11 killed his momentum.

"Today was definitely positive," McIlroy said. "To shoot under par today was a solid way to get off to any major."

Soft conditions, from overnight rain and more in the middle of the round, however, provided plenty of birdie opportunities. Thirty-five players broke par. Of that group, 10 of them were at 3 under or better.

McIlroy hit nine fairways and a dozen greens, using driver eight times in the round to combat the wet conditions. By comparison, Tiger Woods, who played in the morning before the interruption, hit just one.

It was, however, the first time the former world No. 1 has broken par in the opening round of a major this year, which left him feeling better about his game.

Said McIlroy, "You go and you get off to a good start (Friday), you are right there."

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