FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Walking to the 18th tee, Rory McIlroy told caddie Harry Diamond that he couldn’t recall the last time he played a round without a birdie.
The streak remained intact, but his closing 5-foot birdie was about the only thing McIlroy did right Thursday at the PGA Championship. He shot a 2-over 72 that left him nine shots back of leader Brooks Koepka.
“Hopefully that birdie on the last was the turning point,” McIlroy said afterward. “Finish on a positive, come back tomorrow and hopefully get into red figures for the tournament.”
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It was a curious opening round for McIlroy, who ranked second in the field in strokes gained: off the tee and missed only three greens but still shot 2 over par.
McIlroy needed 35 putts on Thursday – the most he’s taken since his second-round 80 at the 2010 Open Championship. He said Bethpage Black’s flat greens were deceptive and that he’s needed to rely on his green-reading book more than usual.
“They actually remind me of greens from back home (in Northern Ireland) that are quite flat and they just have little subtle breaks here and there,” he said. “If I can just hit the ball similar tomorrow and make a few more putts and get myself into red numbers going into the weekend, I’d be pretty happy.”