McIlroy’s Bethpage Park Anguish In Waiting 18 Holes For A First & Only Birdie.

Rory McIlroy’s first round in his 30s was much as painful as his last scoring effort as a 29-year old on day one of the PGA Championship at Bethpage Park on New York’s Long Island.

McIlroy went without a birdie till the very last hole in posting a disappointing two-over par 72  leaving him trailing a massive nine shots behind defending PGA champ, Brooks Koepka who smashed the course record with a bogey-free 63.

New Zealand’s Danny Lee also showed there is a very low score for the taking in signing for an eight-under par 64.

Graeme McDowell is the best of the four Irish signing for a well-earned level par 70 with McIlroy next best to be just inside the top-80 while Ryder Cup captain, Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry each outside the leading 110 with 75s.

For 17 holes of McIlroy’s 42nd Major he had everyone guessing when’s the last time he did not manage a birdie but fortunately there was something to smile about when he holed a six-footer on 18.

Rory McIlroy goes 17 holes before finally a first birdie on the final hole (Photo – @pgachampionship)

Regardless, it was still the shortest club in McIlroy’s bag producing the biggest headache.  Prior to the last hole birdie he was ranked 130th in putting among the now 155 competitors and recording 35 putts in his round.  In contrast, Koepa was first in driving, first in strokes gained and tops in the least number of putts.

“The greens were starting to get a touch bumpy out there, so that was making it difficult in terms of speed not trying to be too aggressive with your putts and not leaving yourself those three- and four-footers all the time,” said McIlroy.

“But, yeah, birdie at the last was great. I’m happy to get that birdie. And as I said, hopefully it’s the turning point in the — not the way I’ve played, but just in my scoring and taking advantage of the shots I’ve been hitting.”

McIlroy was on the Black course back foot from the outset in finding the right rough off the tee and taking a bogey ‘5’, and it wasn’t till the fifth hole, the World No. 4 four a first fairway.

He dipped to two-over in terribly three-putting from some 40-feet at the par-3 eighth hole.

McIlroy then produced six straight pars before a third bogey of his round when he was nearly 20-yards long with his second shot into the par-4 and then taking another three shots in a bogey ‘5’.   The four-time Major winner ended his round just prior to 6pm local time parring 17 and a birdie ‘3’ on 18.

Paul McGinley, and again commentating for SKY Sports TV, suggested McIlroy’s game remained in good stead despite trailing well adrift of Koepka.

“Outside of Koepka and Lee, Rory’s not a million miles away from those in third place on three-under,” said McGinley.

“His game is pretty good and the thing is Rory will be out early in the morning so he should be able to take full advantage of the course as we saw from the guys out in the morning.

“Rory’s well capable of posting something in the mid-60s and getting him well-back into this tournament.”

Harrington, who like McIlroy, will be out earlier today (US time) in round two, did well to be just one-over at the turn and dropping a further four shots over his next six holes for his five-over total.

And 2017 Irish Open winner, Jon Rahm has ignored the luxury of staying the week in one of the many 5-star hotels in the nearby Big Apple and electing to spend the week in an on-course motor home.

“It (motorhome) has many advantages and few disadvantages and, in addition, reminds me of my childhood when I was traveling in a caravan across Europe,” said Rahm after his round of 70.

“Another positive aspect is that, although the kitchen is not the best that it has, it allows you to make your own food. Kelley (fiancée) loves to cook and we can take better control of nutrition, something she knows a lot since she studied Biology.”

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