McIlroy's ankle 'fine' in return at Whistling Straits
The defending PGA champion and World No. 2 Spieth card 71 Thursday in Super Slam group
August 13, 2015
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- Rory McIlroy opened the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits with 1-under 71. He finished T3 that year. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- On his second shot on the 597-yard par-5 second hole of his first competitive round in 53 days, Rory McIlroy pured a 3-wood from 287 yards to 20 feet left of the flag to set up an easy two-putt birdie in the opening round of the PGA Championship on Thursday.
“That was one of the best 3-woods I've ever hit,” he said afterward. “(I wasn’t) surprised; just to be fully committed to a shot like that, second hole into a tournament - I know when I start a season off, the first couple of rounds are sometimes a little bit tentative - just trying to get your way around, but that was full bore as good as I can do, especially with a wind like that. So it was a nice feeling.”
Given the collection of spectacular shots the 26-year-old has executed on his way to amassing four major championships and reaching No. 1 in the world, that’s saying something.
The shot also helped erase a bogey on the opening hole at Whistling Straits, where McIlroy said he felt nervous stepping to the tee box when the shots counted for the first time since injuring his ankle during a soccer game with friends on July 4.
“It was a solid round of golf,” said McIlroy, who opened with a 1-under 71 and trails leader Dustin Johnson by five. “Happy with the way I struck the ball.”
More importantly, he said his left ankle felt fine and not any different than it did during the 72 holes he played in Portugal last week as a “fitness test” and preparation for the PGA.
“I have full confidence,” he continued. “It doesn’t bother me one bit.”
Five holes into the round, McIlroy’s ankle was tested when his third shot to the par 5 came up short and in the hazard. The ball was sitting up just enough in the water for McIlroy to take an awkward stance, roll up his pants and have a swing at it. He got up-and-down to save par.
“The only thing I was trying not to do was get my feet wet,” he said. “Because if the water gets through this shoe and through, then the tape gets wet and then that would be a little more than just sort of annoying or uncomfortable for the rest of the day. … I just had to remember to hit it hard.”
Rory McIlroy’s soggy par save on No. 5 at PGA Championship
More pesky were the conditions. With the wind whipping off Lake Michigan, scores skyrocketed in the afternoon.
Less than a month removed from winning The Open Championship at St. Andrews, Zach Johnson struggled to a 75 playing alongside McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.
“I had difficulty every tee,” said Johnson, who hit just five fairways and made six bogeys. “I actually putted pretty good. There were some putts I missed, but I did pretty good. That will be the only positives I can come up with today.”
Like McIlroy, Spieth was just happy to be in red numbers. He also shot 71.
“Under par was a good round this afternoon,” said Spieth, who is trying to become just the third player to win three majors in the same year. “I definitely had chances to shoot a lower score, but the saves at the end there on 15 and 17 were huge.”
So was a birdie on the 12th.
Spieth was too strong with a pitching wedge and hit his tee shot over the green on the 139-yard par 3. It didn’t matter. He chipped back to the flag and watched the ball disappear.
Jordan Spieth cards first birdie of Round 1 at PGA Championship
“If I didn't get that good break on 12, and chip shot, it could have been a different story the rest of the round,” Spieth said. “For the miscues that I had, maybe a couple of breaks early on the round, they certainly made up for themselves on the back nine.”
If not for a fast recovery from his injury things could have looked a lot different for McIlroy, too, in the year’s final major. The injury had already cost him chances to defend at St. Andrews and Firestone.
Not that you’d know it by watching him Thursday.
“I didn't see any difference in his game,” Spieth said. “He seems a hundred percent ready.”