Rory McIlroy surges into lead at PGA Championship

World's No. 1 golfer atop leaderboard once again

  • Follow Golf

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Rory McIlroy is making this PGA Championship feel like 2000 all over again at Valhalla.

Back | Next
Rory McIlroy carded 4-under-par 67 to take a one-shot lead over Jason Day and Jim Furyk at the PGA Championship. The Northern Irishman is coming off wins in his previous two starts - the British Open and Bridgestone Invitational.  DAVID J. PHILLIP/ASSOCIATED PRESS
DAVID J. PHILLIP/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Rory McIlroy carded 4-under-par 67 to take a one-shot lead over Jason Day and Jim Furyk at the PGA Championship. The Northern Irishman is coming off wins in his previous two starts - the British Open and Bridgestone Invitational.

Back then, it was Tiger Woods who was making the game look easy as he started to pile up majors. Now it’s McIlroy, the 25-year-old from Northern Ireland who produced superior shots with his long game and made all the right putts Friday for 4-under-par 67 that gave him a one-shot lead over Jason Day and Jim Furyk.

“When I’m playing like this, it’s obviously very enjoyable,” McIlroy said. “I can’t wait to get back out on the course again tomorrow and do the same thing all over again.”

McIlroy opened with the exact same scores (66-67) as Woods did 14 years ago at Valhalla, when he barely outlasted Bob May in a playoff for his third consecutive major of the season on his way to an unprecedented sweep of golf’s biggest events.

McIlroy, who is at 9-under 133, isn’t nearly at that stage. And his competition going into the weekend is a little more experienced.

Furyk, a former U.S. Open champion who was runner-up last year at the PGA Champ­ionship, got up-and-down from behind the green on the par-5 18th for birdie and 68. Moments earlier, Day capped off the best round of a soggy day with a birdie on the 18th for 65. Day has three runner-up finishes in majors.

Right behind are Ryan Palmer (70) and Rickie Fowler (66), a runner-up in the past two majors.

Even so, McIlroy is dangerous when he gets in the lead, especially at a major. He learned his lesson at Augusta National in 2011 when he tried to protect a four-shot lead and wound up shooting 80. He bounced back for an eight-shot win at the U.S. Open, won the PGA Championship by a record eight shots a year later and only last month went wire-to-wire to win the British Open.

“My mindset has stayed the same since that day at Augusta,” McIlroy said. “If I’m two ahead going into the weekend here, I’m going to try to get three ahead. And if I’m three ahead, I’m going to try to get four ahead.”

He didn’t take his first lead until the par-5 18th hole, the midway point of his round.

McIlroy hit 4-iron to the front of the green, and his eagle putt rammed into the back of the cup as if it had nowhere else to go.

It was a moment where the No. 1 player in the world looked as if he had just seized control. Except it wasn’t that easy.

In sloppy conditions, McIlroy took bogey on the tough par-4 second hole, and then had to scramble for four consecutive pars. But on the par-5 seventh, after another big tee shot on the left side of the fairway, he hit a 5-wood over the water to 8 feet, a shot that reminded everyone why he’s the class of golf. That was one of the few putts he missed – he still made birdie – and McIlroy finished with a 15-foot birdie on the final hole.

“When he hits the driver that straight and that long, and the short game is incredible, it’s very difficult to beat him,” U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer said. “His iron shots, they are very solid. He doesn’t miss many golf shots. So you just have to respect it a lot, how good he plays. There’s nothing wrong with his game.”

Fowler saw it during the final round at Royal Liverpool last month. He knows what kind of work is left for the guys chasing him.

It can be done. But they might need some help from McIlroy.

“He’s the best player in the world right now,” Fowler said. “And I would say a lot of that is his confidence right now with the way he’s driving the ball. If he continues to drive it, he’s going to continue to be in contention at a lot of golf tournaments and win a lot of times.”

Maybe. But the final major is only at the halfway mark.

Day has been battling injuries to his wrist ever since winning the Match Play Championship, and he was pleasantly surprised to be in the hunt at another major. He is explosive, much like McIlroy, minus the experience of winning. The Australian showed that on the final holes with a wedge to 6 feet on the 450-yard 17th hole, and a nifty up-and-down over a bunker on the 18th.

“I’m clearly not the favorite,” Day said. “It’s going to be tough to beat him. But then again, there’s a lot of great golfers behind us that are in form, as well.”

Woods had a one-shot lead over Scott Dunlap going into the weekend at Valhalla in 2000. Of the dozen players behind him that year, only Davis Love III had won a major. This leaderboard is more compelling. It even includes Phil Mickelson, who made eagle on the last hole for a 67 and was three shots behind.

It just doesn’t include Woods, who ended a sixth consecutive season without winning a major. And lately, he hasn’t even been close.

FOUR PLAYERS WITHDRAW

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Ben Crane withdrew Friday before teeing off because of back problems.

It was the second consecutive tournament in which Crane withdrew because of his back, which has troubled him for much of his career.

Once the second round began, he had company.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat was 5-over through eight when he withdrew because of a knee injury. Boo Weekley stopped after eight holes with a shoulder injury and Angel Cabrera also cited a shoulder injury when he withdrew.

– Associated Press

LOCAL INTEREST

SCOTT BROWN

North Augustan

Score 71-70

Shots back 8

PATRICK REED

Ex-Augusta State golfer

Score 70-71

Shots back 8

CHARLES HOWELL

Augusta native

Score 73-74

Shots back MC

Comments (1) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
etlinks
23187
Points
etlinks 08/09/14 - 06:04 am
0
0
Should be an exciting weekend

Should be an exciting weekend of golf now that the soap opera dude is out of the picture. Phil only 3 shots back can put some pressure on the front runners.

Back to Top

Top headlines

More than 2,000 get meal at annual dinner

More than 800 volunteers served a hot meal to more than 2,000 homeless people at James Brown Arena on Saturday at the Bridge Ministry's annual Thanksgiving Dinner.
Search Augusta jobs