SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – For just the fourth time in his major career, Rory McIlroy failed to record a birdie Thursday at the PGA Championship.
Unfortunately for him, he also made four bogeys.
McIlroy’s opening 74 at Baltusrol left him nine shots off the clubhouse lead and in danger of an early exit at the year’s final major. Only three pros in the morning wave had a worse score than the world No. 4.
“There just wasn’t a lot of momentum out there,” he said afterward. “I’m happy with my game from tee to green – I’m driving the ball as well as I ever have, and my iron play feels good. But when I get on the greens, it’s a different story.”
Indeed, his first-round statistics weren’t pretty: He needed 35 putts, didn’t hole anything longer than 7 feet and lost nearly four shots to the field on the greens (3.952), which left him nearly last in that category.
McIlroy said his biggest issue was the proper pace; on a few occasions he left a 12-foot putt short.
“I just need to be a little bit more aggressive and free-flowing with my stroke,” he said.
McIlroy says he is working alone on his putting. He spent a few years with Dave Stockton Jr., but the two haven’t worked together in more than a year. McIlroy is ranked 61st in putting on the PGA Tour.
In need of a round in the mid-60s just to make the PGA cut, McIlroy said he might return to Baltusrol early Thursday evening, after the temperature drops (it was a high of 95 Thursday), and stroke a few putts to get a better feel. Other than that, he’ll rely on his usual drills, including mirror work, to try and get back on track.
“It’s good on the putting green,” he said, “it’s just a matter of getting it from the putting green onto the course. It’s more of a mental thing, as well. I just need to be more assertive and maybe not as tentative.”