Two-time winner Brooks Koepka recovered from his first hole like “an idiot” as playing partner Rory McIlroy took another slow start on the opening day of the 103rd US PGA Championship.
Koepka hit back after doing a double bogey on the 10th to draw a three under par 69 and two strokes behind Canada’s Corey Conners lead on Kiawah Island.
The Englishman Sam Horsfield, the 2011 champions, Keegan Bradley, and the Norwegian Viktor Hovland took second place next to Koepka, with the five-time major winner Phil Mickelson and the Scot Martin Laird with two parts in the group.
McIlroy ended the day eight strokes behind the lead after a 75 that continued his costly habit of bad starts at the game’s biggest events.
Since 2015, the 32-year-old has been 35 over par in the first round of the major championships and is again faced with a difficult task to win a fifth major title and the first since the US PGA 2014.
McIlroy had entered the tournament as a tournament favorite after his eight-shot win at Kiawah in 2012 and winning his previous start on the PGA Tour, but began his campaign by carving his tee shot into the water in fourth-10th place.
The resulting bogey was followed by birdies on the 11th and 12th, but McIlroy only managed one birdie against five bogeys and played the par fives crucially in two over par.
Koepka, who failed to get out of a bunker on the 10th while McIlroy decided on his penalty drop, repaired the damage with birdies on the 11th and 13th and also got three shots within four holes of the fourth.
The 31-year-old won the US PGA in 2018 and 2019, but had only played four competitive games since the end of February after undergoing an operation on March 16 for a knee dislocation and ligament damage.
“It’s a major. I’ll show up, ”said Koepka. “I am ready to play. I’ve been itching since Augusta. I mean, I feel a lot better now. I don’t have to be 100 percent to play well. “
When asked what he thinks after the double bogey, Koepka added, “What an idiot I was.
“The first rule is, if you’re in trouble, get out of here. I couldn’t reach the green. It was a bad lie. I was just trying to hit a pull sand wedge on the green instead of just chopping it out. So mental error. Earned every little bit of that double bogey.
“It somehow helped me to refocus. I can’t play with mistakes, maybe one a day, and that was my mistake and I got him out of the way on the first hole. “
The longest course in the history of the majors had dominated the construction of the season’s second major, with the Pete Dye-designed Ocean Course on the Atlantic coast of South Carolina that could play up to 7,876 yards.
And although it played “only” 7,660 yards on Thursday, the length and windy conditions were a tough test for the best players in the world.
Laird had threatened to take the clubhouse lead with four straight birdies from 13th to four under, but failed on the 17th and 18th to return a 70.
The English trio of Paul Casey, Tyrrell Hatton and Tom Lewis shot all rounds of 71, while US Open Champion Bryson DeChambeau had five birdies and five bogeys in an eventful 72.
World number one Dustin Johnson finished 18th in a disappointing 76, with Open Champion Shane Lowry returning from a double bogey to 17 to make the final birdie and return a 73 from Jordan Spieth.
Before the game started, former Open champion Francesco Molinari had to resign with a back injury to reduce his chances of getting the European Ryder Cup team to compete in Whistling Straits in September.
The Italian was the first European player to set a perfect 5-0 record in Paris in 2018, but has slipped to 144th place in the world and is currently 42nd in the qualifying race.