Former world number one Rory McIlroy is hoping his final-hole birdie can kick-start his US PGA Championship bid following a difficult round.
McIlroy found the going tough at Bethpage Black, where the four-time major champion carded a two-over-par 72 in the opening round in Farmingdale, New York on Thursday.
A two-time winner of the US PGA – with his last triumph coming in 2014 – McIlroy did not birdie a hole until the last as the Northern Irishman ended the opening round nine shots adrift of leader Brooks Koepka.
“It was either wrong speed at some times or sometimes just a little bit of line, either way, you know, high or low,” McIlroy said as he discussed his performance. “And just keep it hitting good putts. That’s all you can do.
“I guess it’s early in the tournament. Keep hitting good shots. Don’t let it frustrate you. Keep hitting good putts. Eventually things will turn.
“Hopefully that birdie on the last was the turning point, finish on a positive note and come back tomorrow and hopefully get into red figures for the tournament.”
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While McIlroy struggled, reigning champion Koepka managed to shoot a 63 as Danny Lee signed off with a six-under-par 64 on day one.
“There’s a couple of loose scores. If you can put the ball in play and give yourself chances, I felt like I gave myself enough chances today to shoot something sort of in the mid-60s,” McIlroy said. “But, yeah it gives me hope. It gives me hope I can go out tomorrow and shoot a low one.”
“There’s definitely a lot of difference between a 75 and a 63,” the 30-year-old continued. “But around this golf course, the margins are fine. And if you miss the fairway by a yard or two, it can make the difference between hitting a shot into 10 feet and having a birdie chance or having to get up-and-down from 100 yards for par.
“But I did that well tonight. Hit enough fairways, felt like I hit enough greens, and, you know, hit good putts, and some days they just find a way to not go in.”
McIlroy – who has not won a major since 2014 – added: “The birdie at the last was great. I’m happy to get that birdie. And as I said, hopefully it’s the turning point in not the way I’ve played, but just in my scoring and taking advantage of the shots I’ve been hitting.”