Monday, June 17, 2024

Rory McIlroy in the frame at US PGA after searing 62 by Xander Schauffele

Must read

If, by Rory McIlroy’s candid admission, this was a “scrappy” opening to his US PGA Championship then the remainder of the Valhalla field has cause to worry. A five under par 66 from McIlroy in Kentucky served as the latest indication he is close to ending an occasionally painful wait for a fifth major title that stretches back to 2014.

McIlroy’s caution was understandable. The 35-year-old’s putter kept his head above water before a three-hole stretch of birdies from the 5th, McIlroy’s 14th. The Northern Irishman chipped in at the 6th. The upshot was an inward half of 31, which leaves McIlroy four from Xander Schauffele, the first-round leader.

“I thought I got a lot out of my game today,” said McIlroy. “I am not really happy with how I played but at least happy with the score.” Indeed, McIlroy saved par at the 18th thanks to a glorious wedge shot from 120 yards after he found water from the tee. His was a battling performance.

McIlroy and Friday’s later starters will be fortunate to finish round two on schedule. Thunderstorms are forecast for Valhalla, which would bring disruption to the tournament and conjure memories of its 2014 staging here. Scottie Scheffler was too young to compete then; the Masters champion showed he is firmly of a mind to continue his spell of domination by holing out from 167 yards for an eagle on his first hole of the tournament. The world No 1 went on to score 67.

There have been four rounds of 62 in major championship history; Schauffele has posted two of them. He stood on the 9th green, his 18th, over a 30ft birdie putt that would have made him the first man to shoot 61 in this domain. Schauffele had to make do with nine under par and the stealing of the course record from José María Olazábal, who signed for a 63 here in 2000. Schauffele’s latest 62 was also the lowest score in a US PGA. He is anxious to end his wait for a maiden win in one of golf’s four marquee events.

“I’ll take a 62 in any major any day,” said Schauffele, who believes he is playing the finest golf of his career. “Not winning makes you want to win more, as weird as that is. For me, at least, I react to it, and I want it more and more and more, and it makes me want to work harder and harder and harder. The top feels far away and I feel like I have a lot of work to do.”

Rory McIlroy said his five-under par round at the US PGA was ‘scrappy’ but added he was ‘happy with the score’. Photograph: Jeff Faughender/USA Today Sports

Robert MacIntyre – as well as Tom Kim, Thomas Detry, Collin Morikawa and Tom Hoge – matched McIlroy’s score. The Scotsman spent three recent weeks at home, which appears to have kickstarted his season. “It’s been tough,” MacIntyre said of living in the US. “It’s not like Oban. When I go back home, it’s a lot of friends and family you get to spend time with; my nieces, everyone that’s close to me and really cares for me. When I’m in America it’s just me and my girlfriend. We’re trying to live as good a life as we can. But it’s difficult when we’re both so close to family and friends. I got home and hardly touched the golf clubs, did some stupid stuff and just enjoyed myself.”

Quick Guide

How do I sign up for sport breaking news alerts?


  • Download the Guardian app from the iOS App Store on iPhone or the Google Play store on Android by searching for ‘The Guardian’.
  • If you already have the Guardian app, make sure you’re on the most recent version.
  • In the Guardian app, tap the Menu button at the bottom right, then go to Settings (the gear icon), then Notifications.
  • Turn on sport notifications.

Thank you for your feedback.

Sahith Theegala and Tony Finau are at six under. At four under the defending champion, Brooks Koepka, is worthy of attention. The highlight of Koepka’s round was an eagle three at the 7th. Koepka’s formidable iron play was emphasised by the finding of 14 greens in regulation.

skip past newsletter promotion

Tiger Woods was under par and looking promising before three putting his last two holes. Woods again bemoaned a lack of tournament action after his 72. It is difficult to see how the 15-times major champion emerges from this unsatisfactory cycle. “I am getting stronger for sure,” Woods said. “It’s just that I just don’t play a whole lot of competitive rounds. I haven’t played since the Masters. So it’s a little bit different than being at home and playing a flat Florida course.”

Viktor Hovland suggested an overdue return to form courtesy of a 68. Bryson DeChambeau is also three under. Justin Thomas, who grew up in Louisville, is alongside Jordan Spieth at minus two. In the home city of Muhammad Ali, those sprawled on the canvas include Michael Block. The fan favourite of the 2023 US PGA slumped to a 76 after taking a quadruple bogey eight on the 2nd. There will be no Block party this time around.

Latest article